THE GOOD: THE COMEBACK, TOM PRITCHARD.
I started this game a bit late, so I had to play catchup on DVR. Because I always need to have my laptop open — always, always — I caught one of Alex’s Twitter updates that said IU had cut the lead to 11 with just under 12 minutes to go. At the time, I had just started the second half, and as the half wore on I became increasingly shocked by this fact: after all, IU showed no signs of really putting a dent into Loyola’s lead. They still trailed by 20 with 14:10 to go, and though they were taking care of the ball better — there was only one turnover in the first seven minutes of the second half — Loyola was hitting their shots, and IU wasn’t able to inch any closer.
But then the barrage hit. Maurice Creek knocked down two threes, Verdell Jones hit another, Creek hit a layup, got fouled and hit the free throw, Jones hit two free throws off a Creek steal, and suddenly the Hoosiers were only down six with 10:18 to go.
Another big part of IU’s comeback? Tom Pritchard. In the second half, he really reminded me of the Pritch of old: he was gobbling up rebounds, had a real knack for the ball and was a productive scorer. He had six offensive boards and eight total, and chipped in seven points. It wasn’t an amazing effort by any stretch, but he kept a lot of plays alive during the Hoosiers’ comeback run, and it was an integral part of why they were able to make this a game. IU, with their thin frontline, could use this kind of effort out of Pritch every night.
Yes, of course, there was plenty to gripe about in this game. (Just what until you get to The Bad.) But IU could have laid down and died in this one. Instead, they turned up the defensive pressure in both the full and half court, were aggressive and got to the line, and hit some big shots to bring them right back into this game.
This is what good teams do when they find themselves at a crossroads: They will themselves back into the game with good play on both sides of the ball. But good teams also find a way to win these games against an inferior opponent at home. And well, we all know that didn’t happen tonight.