Indiana Basketball – Should Hoosiers Be “Happy” or “Proud” With 71-66 Loss to Michigan State?

by Kent Sterling

"Happy" should not describe the Hoosiers reaction to seeing Gary Harris do this again and again last night.

“Happy” should not describe the Hoosiers reaction to seeing Gary Harris do this again and again last night.

The lead of Zach Osterman’s Indianapolis Star piece on Indiana’s road loss last night to Michigan State Spartans reads, “Indiana should leave the Breslin Center happy with its performance, even in a loss, to No. 3 Michigan State.”  Has Indiana fallen so far that losses to a good team that played poorly (minus the 20-point in 18 second half minutes heroism of Gary Harris) are worthy of happily leaving an arena?

I’ve never read a piece by a beat writer than suggested a smile should accompany a loss for a defending Big Ten Champion, but the rest of Zach’s story is right down the middle in reporting how the Spartans won and Indiana couldn’t finish the deal.

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The point isn’t to critique Zach’s writing.  He’s a hard working guy who covers the Hoosiers well.  The point is that the suggestion that a team should be pleased with itself on its way out of the Breslin Center is ludicrous.

IU coach Tom Crean was a little more sanguine than I would expect from a coach paid to win games, not find the silver lining, “I’m proud of the way my team played, to be honest with you.”  Proud is different than pleased, happy, or worst of all satisfied, so I can.  Not to go all Vince Lombardi here, but show me a coach who is satisfied after losing, and I’ll show you a loser.

Indiana is 2-4 in the Big Ten, and coaches are a lot less likely to go scorched earth in the middle of January when staring at an additional 12 conference games, and Crean is working the long con with this team, not trying to rev them up for the Illinois game on Sunday.

Destroying them in the media in the immediate aftermath of a game where progress was made over the effort made Saturday afternoon in Assembly Hall against Northwestern would have been the act of a self-indulgent and self-immersed mope, and Crean is smarter than that.

Michigan State is a good team with a couple of important pieces knicked or missing, and were ripe for the picking last night.  As was the case with Wisconsin during the win that caused the students to quietly rain onto Branch McCracken Court, Michigan State looked a little slow during the first half.  In the second half, Harris put on his truss and carried his teammates across the finish line.

Indiana’s answers were insufficient to mount a successful effort to claw back from a 62-52 deficit.

Did the Hoosiers play hard?  Sure.  Did they defend reasonably well?  Sure.  Did they turn the ball over a bunch?  Yes, 18 is double what’s acceptable.  Did they miss the looks they earned through trying to attack the rim?  Yes, 16 times they missed shots tight to the bucket.

They continue to dribble into trouble, but Stanford Robinson appears to be adroit in getting to the rim, and Troy Williams played his best game since the non-conference schedule against nine versions of (perpetual Harlem Globetrotters patsies) the Washington Generals.

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Is that enough to feel happy?  The question isn’t whether the response should be glee or sorrow, but what will prod the Hoosiers toward improvement in effort and execution for the final 13 (minimum) games of the 2013-2014 season.  Hopefully, the players were furious with yet another opportunity lost.  The coaches need to take a long hard look at their own work as they assess the problems causing these losses.  And the media and fans can think whatever the hell they want.  We are completely inconsequential in the equation that leads to the success or failure of any team.

A segment of the people calling themselves Indiana fans are still not sure about Crean.  Another thinks he’s doing a wonderful job.  And a third group of deeply disturbed fanatics believe it’s still 1981, and Bob Knight would be a salve for all wounds.  For me, I think he has been better this season than in the past two.  He looks more in control; not quite as super amped up about everything during games.  Teaching seems to be his focus, and that’s the way I like coaches.

I just hope Crean wasn’t happy, as Zach suggested, or as proud as he suggested he was after the game.  I hope he’s driven to clean up the mess that caused this potential win to become a loss, and that his players are apt and unsatisfied students.

5 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Should Hoosiers Be “Happy” or “Proud” With 71-66 Loss to Michigan State?

  1. Doug A

    I am thinking/hoping Coach saw a vast improvement in play compared to the Northwestern game and was happy with that. When and if the day comes that Indiana finds it acceptable to always walk away from games with a loss but morale victory is the day I walk away for good.

  2. Warren / TN.

    Knowing I’m a UK fan that’s become a regular to the site, I once again say “I come in peace.” Objectively speaking, I would say the proper word should be “disappointment” for the MSU game. No disrespect or veiled insinuation meant at all.

    Disappointing that, without Sheehey, and MSU being without Payne, the golden opportunity slipped thru the fingers for a HUGE NCAAT resume building win. Disappointing that IU got away from feeding Vonleh as they had early in the game. In my opinion, not getting the ball to him more was the single biggest reason the Hoosiers didn’t win that game. Maybe I’m wrong on that, but that was what I took away from it.

    That said, I would remain cautiously optimistic as a Hoosier fan moving forward, and encouraged that the game was close and competitive. Being “happy” or “proud” after that game is disingenuous, at best. A moral victory rings hollow at this point of the season. The point-blank truth of the matter is that it was a disappointment, but certainly not one to hang the head in shame about.

    Although I’m a rival and unashamedly root against IU, I say keep the faith and strive towards being positive in the hopes of getting that tournament berth. I’m doggedly positive as a cancer survivor, and will remain so to my dying day. For me, that’s just how I have to be. Being fans of programs that sometimes try our patience, it’s also a good idea to have that attitude carry over to hoops!

    1. kentsterling Post author

      You have given me hope by being a reasonable Kentucky fan. I knew they existed, but never before on this site.

      No doubt about Vonleh. I think he should come back for another year. He’s a year younger than the rest of the guys in his class, and with another year in the weight room, he has a chance to be a top five pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

      He’s the key to the Hoosiers making some improvement the rest of the way. The ball must work through Vonleh.

  3. Jeff Gregory

    I think IU program can be looked at in two parts (after the Sampson debacle): BUK and AUK. That stands for Before the UK game, and After the UK game. The upset of UK a couple of years ago can be looked at as the turning point of the program (in the Crean era). If the MSU game was BUK, then I think it would be fine to be happy or proud about the game. However, now that it is AUK, it sickens me to think that IU can be happy with any loss. Either the team has arrived back on the national scene, or it hasn’t. If Ohio State isn’t proud of their OT loss to MSU, then IU certainly shouldn’t be happy when they come up short. IU should expect to win EVERY game, even in rebuilding type years – because they are IU. That is how it has been before Sampson – even in subpar years. I don’t see why it should be any different now unless the program is conceding that IU is no longer IU.

  4. john pearce bradenton fl.

    tom crean could not win the big10 tournamet let alone the ncaa if he had the indiana pacers or miami heat!


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