When adversity called, Watford answered

  • 03/18/2012 10:11 am in

PORTLAND, Ore. — The game was over. The Hoosiers were done.

Late in the first half, VCU’s defense was starting to wreak havoc. The Rams broke a 33-33 tie with nine straight points, including four straight on layups coming from turnovers. The Hoosiers couldn’t even get shots off.

This team hadn’t been here before. It hadn’t ever faced a team like VCU, it hadn’t ever recovered from a deficit in a do-or-die game.

Just as the Hoosiers were about to be run out of the Rose Garden by the 12-seeded Rams, Christian Watford decided he had worked too hard to let this magical season end without a fight.

On the Hoosiers’ next offensive possession, Watford held the ball behind the 3-point line. He pivoted, waiting for his defender to come out or sag off. When he backed up just a step, Watford let it go and drilled a big 3.

That’s when Watford did something he rarely does — he got mad, he got emotional, and he got demonstrative. It was exactly what the Hoosiers needed, and what they need more than anything if they have a chance to beat Kentucky on Friday.

As he prepared for the next defensive possession, Watford slapped his hands together, turned to Will Sheehey on his left, and said ‘Let’s play, baby.’

Sheehey nodded, and then the Hoosiers did just that — they played, baby.

Watford nailed another 3, and then two free throws. All of a sudden, Indiana was only down a point at halftime.

They were dead, and Watford gave them life.

“I knew we were at a very vulnerable point where we needed to get some good shots up,” Watford said. “It’s just the moment. It’s March Madness at this point. It’s win or go home, so you have to lay it all out on the line.”

The Hoosiers were done. The game was over.

As the second half went on, the deficit grew. They were down seven, then nine, then four, then six. They were turning the ball over in bunches — they wasted 35 percent of their possessions — and they allowed VCU to shoot uncontested shots. The season was slipping away.

When they thought about the climb back, though, they simply had to go back to Watford’s streak late in the first half. That streak gave the Hoosiers the confidence they needed, the confidence they could still win the game even though it seemed utterly impossible they would do so.

They thought back to what Watford had done only an hour earlier, they thought back to the late deficit they had overcome at N.C. State earlier this season.

This team may not have the most postseason experience, but neither did VCU before it made its Final Four run last year, neither did Butler before its first run to the national championship.

Experience is important but, sometimes, it’s overrated.

“It’s them. It’s what they believe they’re going to do,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “And the way they talked to one another in the huddles. And the resolve they had. And they’re so locked in. Their locked-in mindset gave us great confidence, but most importantly it gave each of them the confidence.”

They had confidence in themselves, but they also had confidence in each other.

They trusted a freshman, Cody Zeller, to make plays on offense late in the game. And he did.

They trusted Victor Oladipo, who had committed five turnovers, to hurry the ball up the court instead of taking a timeout.

And they trusted each other enough to switch everything on VCU’s final possession, even with the game and the season squarely on the line.

The game wasn’t over. The Hoosiers aren’t done — they’re headed to Atlanta.

“I sit and look at these guys, and I’m looking across at them in that huddle and it’s a great feeling,” Crean said. “It’s hard to describe. But it’s a great feeling to be around young men like this that they do really want to see each other be successful. They know they’re a team. They’ve earned their way in.”

Filed to:

  • SCHoosier

    way i saw it elbow wasn’t close..he straight armed him with a forearm..if its to the face..i suppose it should be the same penalty..in that case ruled “incidential contact” it was different than swinging elbows I think

  • Remy Willing and Abell

    That’s the WATFORD we need ! Love the way he is playing , he has to bring it like that to the Kentucky game …has to .

  • InTheMtns

    I saw it. My feelings about it are the same as with Will’s – incidental and shouldn’t have been called a Flagrant, Neither actually involved elbows (although close) because both were with the forearm. But if you put the two replays side-by-side, in my opinion, Day-Day’s would be more deserving of a call because it was more aggressive and more avoidable. But both were incidental with the ball handler trying to change directions and in my opinion neither should be called Flagrant.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    Digger got beat by us so many times no wonder he wants us to lose big!?  IU will need unbelievable effort to win friday,no matter the outcome this team is special.GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    Digger got beat by us so many times no wonder he wants us to lose big!?  IU will need unbelievable effort to win friday,no matter the outcome this team is special.GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • Kelin Blab

    Watford seems to be a kid who needs a big stage/game to get himself going. This is not a bad thing, other than we can’t play Kentucky every week. Comes with maturity, to bring it every night but lets not forget he fought through an ugly slump earlier in the season. Playing his best basketball right now. Will be huge against KY.

    Need Elston to step up at some point this NCAA tourney.

  • RickSB

    Video of the welcome home at Cook Hall, the entire team speaks
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1OWebol6cSI

  • Not about Watford but about the Xavier v Lehigh game. I’m watching the big ‘ol white boy Frease (#32 i think) for Xavier. Holy cow, 25 pts. But, if Tom Pritchard did half of what this guy does he would foul out in 2mins. What is the deal? This guy moves AND extends arms on every screen he attempts to set. Gotta be disheartening to Tom to see this. Why does Tom get treated like he is a goon. I cant remember anything in his 4 yrs that be considered cheap or dirty.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    I agree. Just like when Hulls got poked in the eye later, it wasn’t a flagrant foul. The referees have some discretion. If you have to stare at replays for 10 minutes to see if someone got brushed, I’m pretty sure you can just let that go.

    The officiating was just all around terrible that game, and we got the short end of the stick.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    I agree. Just like when Hulls got poked in the eye later, it wasn’t a flagrant foul. The referees have some discretion. If you have to stare at replays for 10 minutes to see if someone got brushed, I’m pretty sure you can just let that go.

    The officiating was just all around terrible that game, and we got the short end of the stick.

  • KevOMG

    As I watched this game during St. Pattys, I was crowded by VCU fans (I’m living in VA). It hurt, it stung, it was fitting that alcohol was allowed on the day that might be too much to watch sober.

    However, I saw Watford light up. Now, I didn’t read all of the comments posted (just too many at this point) but I would like to bring up one point. And it is this:

    I’ll never forget when another team was at the free throw line (I can’t even remember who, might be Kentucky cause they stick out in my mind) and he failed to get the board off the miss. Sheehy comes up and says to him “either you get in there, or I’ll do it” and Watford pushed him away with the confidence of “I know, but I got this next one”. It won’t leave my mind. Next FT, he grabs it and they move.

    This team polices itself like the cops of the tailgate field. You mess up once, you won’t mess up again. You might not like it, but you’ll respect it, Sheehy did it then and Watford only needed to hear it once.

    This is Indiana.

  • Backfam2

    I live in KY, but am a die hard IU fan. If the Hoosiers can get Davis in foul trouble, we can beat them. We have to keep pressure on them and keep a fast pace. Their bench is not as deep as ours, and will get tired. It will be a hard game for us, it is in catlanta. If we make our shots and take some 3s, and zone defense we will win. They are gonna come out on fire because they want revenge. We just have to be as physical if not more than them. They will have a huge fan base there. We have to penetrate and get fouls on Davis and jones. If we don’t win this, I will have to hear about it until we beat them next year, and I don’t want to go through that.

  • Derbus

    I concur on the Cody play from the top of the key!  I do not wish this blog to dicuss military association.  Can we keep it clean and objective please?  Thanks

  • marcusgresham

    How far does IU have to progress through this tournament before Knight acknowledges them?

  • marcusgresham

    Oh come on—-that wasn’t Cal’s fault, that was the players.  Don’t believe me, I can point you in the direction of several UK apologists who’ve been telling me that repeatedly.

  • marcusgresham

    And when his shot against UK went in the clock read “zero point zero”

  • marcusgresham

    I can’t imagine he harbors any love for Kentucky, though.  They used to play annually on a “neutral court” at Freedom Hall, where Kentucky would pretty much fill the place for the afternoon shoot-around (no, I’m not making this up.)  Literally, the entire game, any time he left his seat he was showered with chants of “Sit Down, Digger!”

  • marcusgresham

    God, I’d forgotten about that.  You’re dead on.

  • Outoftheloop

     I guess when you are a true “slimmer”, nothing can ever stick to you.

  • Outoftheloop

     I guess when you are a true “slimmer”, nothing can ever stick to you.

  • IUMIKE1

    Maybe…maybe if we win it all, but I won’t be holding my breath even then… and my wife thinks I hold a grudge.

  • iufan4life10

     It was during the NC State game.

    I think back to the discussions last year about leadership with this team.  Who was going to step up to lead this team, why does coach Crean keep saying everyone needs to be a leader?  We are seeing the benefits of everyone being a leader and holding everyone accountable on the team.  Coach Crean can only do so much from the sidelines or in meetings.  The players have to hold each other accountable to make plays, to pick each other up when someone is down, and probably the most important is a competitiveness to do work in the off-season.  This is only the beginning of something special with this team and this program.

  • Was wondering the same myself. Will he be the one who leaves?

  • Was wondering the same myself. Will he be the one who leaves?

  • iufan4life10

     I don’t think it was way after the fact.  If I recall correctly after it happened CZ walked over and CTC directed him to notify the refs.  They refs then went to the monitor to review it and the player was ejected.  I have issues with reviews both in football and basketball.  It seems like it breaks up the momentum and there should be another official that reviews the plays immediately.

  • SCHoosier

    Absolutely remember that..thought at the time..”wow..that took some b____s”..but instead of being offended..Wat sucked it up and got on the boards. Love it when players are competitive enuff to challenge their team mates. Says a lot about this team..and an attitude “we ain’t taking this stinkin’ losing anymore”..

  • kelin –  agree and disagree.  CWat plays well on a big stage.  You say he should have done this every night.  Maybe.  I also remember the big stage and big games.  Very few players have the mental and physical attributes to be able to get into the zone at critical times.  CWat has demonstrated that he does.  He focused and elevated and simply carried this team.  I love this kids attitude and game.

    Cwat is also focusing on his rebounding. This skill set is our weakness going into to KU.  For bigs we have CZ, CWatt, Pritch and elston.  At 6’9′ Elston is a bit anemic on the boards.  Like his outside shot but sure could use his size inside to get some rebounds in a crowd and box out.

  • SCHoosier

    Agree on DE and I thnk he will do it. The VCU game was just too quick for him to have an impact..he took one shot and really rushed it..which is what that press defense does to you..play faster than you want too or can.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    If we are in the final four, he will schedule a three week long fishing trip just to avoid having to say the word Indiana

  • jpniles

    You really thing Atlanta will be a neutral court? The only college basketball team whose fans travel as well as IU’s is UK. They are no joke. They are pissed and ready for vengeance. 

    I will be rooting for IU all the way. I will be upset if they lose. But I would say the odds are a little more in Kentucky’s favor… like 70/30. I hope I am wrong. But I can’t help but have this sense of dread and doom.

  • jpniles

    You really thing Atlanta will be a neutral court? The only college basketball team whose fans travel as well as IU’s is UK. They are no joke. They are pissed and ready for vengeance. 

    I will be rooting for IU all the way. I will be upset if they lose. But I would say the odds are a little more in Kentucky’s favor… like 70/30. I hope I am wrong. But I can’t help but have this sense of dread and doom.

  • millzy32

    We won and that’s all that matters.  That was an ugly win but it’s the tournament and winning is all that matters.  Bring on pUKe.  You said we needed home cooking to beat you?  Well we’ll see about that now won’t we?  Go Hoosiers.

  • millzy32

    Big difference between intentionally nutting a guy and inadvertently elbowing someone.  One time I actually agreed with Barkley (stupid rule) but you are correct it is in the book to be called that way.  Intention should be in that rule whether it’s a 1 or a 2 flagrant.  Also, if anyone watched the North Carolina game there was an instance where a player got hit above the shoulders and it was also inadvertent and guess what they reviewed it and played on.  So basically they aren’t even consistent with these silly rules.

  • millzy32

    Let’s keep the Magic going.  When IU comes back IU really comes back.  Forget the next 3-4 years lets hang 6 this year.  Who’s in???????????????????????

    1940 1953 1976 1981 1987  I could repeat it in my sleep backwards, forwards and lets add 2012.

  • DarkSouth

    Thanks for pointing it out. Though I’m pretty sure Crean knew before doing tournament research that we needed to foul less and all that stuff.

  • DarkSouth

    Yeah, he was too big for VCU to trap with their guards. Hard to pressure a guy who can see and throw over their guards.

  • Pinehurst

    Wow!

  • SCHoosier

     
    Well I’m “in”..but let’s be realistic here. Check out the match-ups..having Will in there helps with defense….but when I look at that first game tape and see how UK took our guards to the hole at their pleasure in the second half..I know this is going to be a looooong game. Both teams have improved. Davis has a much more versitile offensive game than Cody..who needs to drive to get Davis in foul trouble.Jones who didn’t show up in B-town..is playing well. Problem with UK is that you have to defend EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY..on the primeter and in the paint…ALL THE TIME..no let downs cause UK can do a 12 point run on you before you can blink. Add to that the motivation factor (how many times have the kittys had to look at the “Wat-Shot” on CBS and ESPN)…and IU has its hands full. Then again..if IU plays its game..if we can turn Teague over a few times..and if the Kat’s aren’t burning it from the 3…I like our chances. That’s a lot of “ifs”. Keep the faith. I llove this team.

  • Kenneth234

    Doubts are one thing, but belief is another.  I was hoping for a UCONN or Iowa St upset over pUKe in the second round because during the road to the final 4, you need a little luck.  But now that the matchup with pUKe is inevitable, I am clearly set on the mindest that this team is fully capable of beating pUKe twice in this season. 

    I look back at the first game, and there were certainly a lot of things that went right in order to pull off the big upset.  I also know for a fact that there are a lot of things that this team does well now that they struggled with in that game.  It will certainly take a great effort to beat pUKe in Atlanta, but we have yet to see this team reach their potential. 

    Lets not forget that pUKe has the weight of the world on them in this next game, sure they carry with them some motivation for revenge, but a huge factor that is easily overlooked is that when it is all added up, when you consider what this game means to their players compared to what it means for our players, our players are more committed to the legacy that is Indiana than the one and done team that is pUKe.  Their players went to pUKe to leap frog into the NBA, rather than to represent the name on the front of their jerseys.  Our players came to B-town to represent the name on their jersey. 

    We have been thouroughly douted and tested this whole season, pUKe has barely been challenged for 3 months.  We have character that can only be created out of overcomming adversity, and pUKe has yet to build such character and resolve.  They rely on talent alone, we rely on effort, emotion, love for each other, tremendous basketball intellegence and finely developed basketball skill. 

    How much will pUKe feel the pressure if IU comes out and knocks down some shots early or responds if pUKe comes out with a tremendous start and doesn’t just go away like an SEC team would?  What if pUKe struggles to hit shots?  The pressure cooker may be too much for a group of freshmen to overcome.  This game is very much winnable, and I for one, am going to be positive until the final horn sounds, and Indiana is ahead on the scoreboard.  GO HOOSIERS!

  • Kenneth234

    I think the Ancient Maya predicted “The Movement”!  I cannot wait to see who we play December 20, 2012.  That must be the day that we take the number 1 ranking in the nation and hold it for a millinium, right?

  • Kenneth234

    I think that our best shot is to give our best effort on the defensive board.  Try to keep their drivers in front as much as possible to keep from having to help, hopefully that will allow everyone to challenge jump shooters.  If we challenge effectively maybe the cylinder closes up a bit for them.  We need to certainly execute in the half court probably near as good as we can possibly execute.  But I keep saying it, we have yet to see this Indiana club play to their capabilities.  Remy abel will need to play some big minutes for us.  He willl be vital especially on defense.  Oladipo, and Sheehey will also need to be at their best on the defensive end.  Watford, Hulls, Zeller, and Elston also needs to make some big shots.  But more than anything we need to take great care of the ball to limit their break aways.