THE GOOD: RESOLVE.
Oh baby, what a win. With Mo Creek out for the season, and Indiana fans a bit down, a bit defeated, IU proved this afternoon inside Assembly Hall that your leading scorer does not an entire team make. Sure, Michigan isn’t that great a squad right now, and some dumb fouling kept Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims off the court for some time, but when Harris was in the game, Jeremiah Rivers did a good job keeping him in check.
Devan Dumes filled in great for Creek in the first half, hitting 3-of-5 threes for nine points, and flashing some defense as well. He was a big reason IU lead at half. Jay Bilas had the line of the afternoon when giving Dumes props for his first-half performance: “Sometimes a kid just needs to be needed.” Incredibly fitting for a player like Dumes.
And then there was everyone else filling in their roles as well: Verdell Jones continues to be a rock, and hit some big shots in both halves when IU needed them. He finished the game with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He played with purpose. He wanted this game. Bad. And Watford was right there with him, as he went 7-for-12 for 19 points this afternoon. If those two, along with Dumes can continue to lead the way on offense with guys like Jordan Hulls, Derek Elston and Rivers picking their spots and contributing as well, IU might be OK.
And how about Hulls? Kid wanted to be on the line at the end of the game when it counted. He’s been there before. He’s a winner. IU had an advantage because they went into the bonus with around 15 minutes to go, but after Rivers missed two straight free throws with just over two minutes to go and a chance to extend the lead to five — and Hulls fouling Zach Novak on a three and him making all three free throws (why is IU always doing this?) to tie the game — the Hoosiers turned their hopes over to Hulls on the line in the final minutes of the game, and he hit all four of the crucial ones. Those other two he hit at the end were just an added bonus with the game all but decided. I don’t want to pick on Rivers too bad, because he was otherwise great, with no play more important than when he saw an opening in the middle of the lane, slashed through, hit the athletic layup, was fouled and made the free throw — finally! — to put IU up three with 1:12 to go. That should not go unnoticed; it was huge play at a crucial time in the game.
Even more crucial was the way these Hoosiers took care of the ball this afternoon. In the second half, they only had one — one! — turnover, and it was from Tom Pritchard. No ballhandler turned the ball over. They only had nine for the game. Impressive stuff.
Simply put: the Hoosiers executed at the right times late in the game. They showed poise. It just looked like they wanted it more. And with the home crowd behind them, they pulled through for the win. This was the first game I found myself really feeling like the outcome was life or death; I hung on every play. That’s what Big Ten season will do to you. It seemed like the crowd raised their intensity level up a bit today, too.
Great day to be a fan of the Hoosiers, eh?
THE BAD AND UGLY: EMPTY.
It’s New Year’s Eve, the Hoosiers just picked up a nice win, and I’m feeling lazy. No bad or ugly today inside Assembly Hall, just a feel good win all around. Happy New Year’s everyone.