The ripple effect of Devonte Green: Impossible to overlook

Devonte Green dribbles ball up the court

Devonte Green yet again the difference maker in another resume win for Indiana. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

It had been a while since he was feeling himself, but Indiana senior guard Devonte Green elevated his play at the perfect time to lift a struggling Hoosier team and beat No. 21 Iowa 89-77 at home on Thursday.

The win bumps Indiana to 16-8 on the season and 6-7 in Big Ten play, but far more than that, it seems as if Green’s play has woken up the entire Indiana team. This win was monumental, and it snaps the team’s previous four-game losing streak.

“We knew we had to bounce back, we had to get through the slump,” Green said. “And all it takes is one win to get that feel good back in your system in the locker room.”

Thursday’s stellar effort from the Hoosiers was nothing like what Indiana displayed last Saturday in its 72-64 home loss to Purdue or any time during its losing streak. Thursday’s game showed a complete team that was ready to play, and the effort to find that energy again starts with Green.

Green was electric and finished with a team-high 27 points on an impressive 7-for-11 shooting night from the 3-point line. He added to the impressive scoring total with four rebounds and two steals too.

“I got a lot of open shots early,” Green said. “We moved the ball well and spaced them out, spaced the zone out. Once I started hitting, I got hot and it was on from there.”

The senior guard balled out in front of esteemed IU alums Juwan Morgan, OG Anunoby, James Blackmon and his brother Danny Green, the current Los Angeles Laker.

While his play excited that group, it also boosted energy into his teammates as Green wasn’t the only Hoosier who stood out.

Trayce Jackson-Davis had yet another double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds which included a few emphatic dunks. Race Thompson tied his career-high with 10 points and Rob Phinisee also added 12 points and five assists.

As a team, Indiana was a season-best 11-for-21 from the 3-point line and received solid contribution from about everyone who played. The 89 points scored was the highest point total for Indiana since December as well.

The balanced scoring gave Indiana a variety of offensive options, something this team hasn’t consistently had for a lot of the season.

Defensively, Indiana could not come close to stopping Iowa junior Luka Garza who exploded for 38 points. Other than him, everyone else was kept in check and that’s all that mattered in getting the end result of a win.

When Indiana has offensive balance and scores in bunches that’s when they’re most potent. Those are also the same games when Green is at his best.

He is the engine that gets this team going, and his play is indicative of how the team as a whole performs.

“We really needed it,” Archie Miller said about Green’s performance. “Our team needs some type of confidence boost in big games. And when he’s played well, we’ve played well.”

Green has had his moments of excellence, and his times of serious struggle.

Just like this Indiana team.

Both Green and Indiana are — not coincidentally — wildly inconsistent.

Green’s scoring average stands at 11 points a game. In losses it hovers around the same figure, 9.8 points per game, but his total efficiency, which goes beyond the scoring, isn’t there. And that impacts the entire team.

Some of those losses have included late-game baskets that have inflated the scoring average, but there have been lowly performances too. Against Penn State and Purdue, he finished with four and three points, respectively. Against Rutgers he did not score. The Rutgers and Penn State performances were Indiana’s lowest scoring totals of the season.

Likewise, when Green is at his best, like Thursday, or in his career-high 30 points against No. 8 Florida State or his 19-point effort against formerly No. 11 Ohio State, each game has ended up as a double-digit Indiana win over a ranked opponent.

Bringing about consistency to Green’s standout performances is essential for this team’s immediate future if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.

“We have to find a way to get him consistent,” Miller said. “You talk about an X factor with our team, how the difference of some of the plays, shots he makes, when he’s playing good basketball, how much it helps our team — just not only the shots but the passes, too. He makes plays that other guys can’t.”

Indiana got the job done by snapping its losing streak and getting a much-needed win against a quality opponent. But it doesn’t get any easier with four of the next five games coming on the road.

With only one road win thus far, against a lowly Nebraska team, Indiana is still in need of another road one to bolster its resume. Sunday’s matchup against Michigan is the next game and the next opportunity to not only get another road win but to establish real consistency with Green and the entire team.

Green’s quality of play down the stretch in the last seven games of the season for Indiana very well could be the deciding factor of Indiana’s results in its remaining slate and therefore its tournament chances.

“The whole key for him is just come back to work tomorrow, be focused and get ready to go,” Miller said. “It’s not about how many you got tonight; it’s about can you be really good at Michigan on Sunday?”