by Kent Sterling
Indiana played a solid fundamental game and beat the #3 team in the country by three. Nice win. Good job.
Stanford Robinson looked like a guy who can both get to the rim and defend a little bit. Austin Etherington played tough smart basketball. Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh did what they were expected to do. Good win. Back to practice.
This wasn’t one of the great upsets in Indiana history. Fans hope they have seen the last of the great upsets at Assembly Hall. Indiana, after all, is Indiana, and one of the best programs in America should never be a home underdog.
Knowing where they were sitting didn’t keep fans in their seats when the last gasp three-pointer from Wisconsin’s Ben Brust missed. They stormed the court like fans did at Clemson when they beat Duke. You know what Duke fans do when they beat Clemson? They pat each other on the back and head to the closest spot with the coldest beer. That’s the difference between Duke and Clemson. Duke knows who it is, and Clemson knows who it is not.
Indiana should behave like Duke after every win – like Indiana used to when it knew who it was.
Don’t get me wrong, during the game the fans were spectacular – the student section in particular. During the post game press conference, Robinson’s eyes lit up when asked about the effect of the crowd, “I know that it helped me personally and then the team as well. It joined us together down the stretch. Just hearing that crowd go crazy like that, I know I got a lot of energy.”
The words don’t come close to conveying the awe that his eyes betrayed.
The fans in the balcony – closer to passing air traffic than the court – jumped up and down like The Beatles had just taken the stage,
This was the Hoosiers second game without Jeremy Hollowell, and perhaps not coincidentally their second straight conference win. When asked about Hollowell’s absence with the very last question of the post game press conference, coach Tom Crean replied, “I’ll play him when I put him in.” The moral of the story for Hollowell is that if you are going to do something that requires your benching, the team better not improve noticeably and win games. Benchings tend to last when the result is positive.
This was also the first time Crean has beaten Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan while at Indiana. Crean was very generous with praise for the Badgers, and intimated several times how well coached he believes they are. For me, this was a lot more fun when the two adversaries appeared to hate one another. For the schools and the players, it’s better to have the coaches set a positive example by treating each other with civility, but it’s not as entertaining for the adults.
That’s alright. Indiana is now 2-2 in the Big Ten just over three days after being down 15 to Penn State, and appearing to be dead in the water for an NCAA bid. After all, 1-5 in real games is not going to result in an RPI ranking that the selection committee will respect.
Tonight, the Hoosiers look very much alive in the Big Ten race and might find a way to continue to grow and mature to the point where their productivity equals their talent. If that happens, March could be a lot more fun than it seemed it would be during the first half of the Penn State game.
This wasn’t a signature win. It wasn’t a program defining win. It wasn’t worthy of a celebration by fans who tried to find a way on to Branch McCracken Court. It was a win that rewarded good coaching, a solid rotation, and smart basketball.
This win might be a step toward more solid play that yields more wins, or it might have been an anomaly that is seen later in the season as a high point. That would justify the silly post game celebration. Will Sheehey, Yogi Ferrell, and Robinson didn’t seem too impressed with themselves, and Crean didn’t spend a lot of time patting himself or his players on the back.
The focus seemed to be on what’s next, and that’s Northwestern at Assembly Hall this Saturday at 2:30p.