Our always-interesting friends at the Palestra passed along this footage of a joyous crowd after last night’s win, promptly followed by Tom Crean’s decision to tackle IU band director Dave Woodley. Dave, Tom’s right. You are a lightweight. NOW GET UP AND START CONDUCTING!
The Indiana Hoosiers have not been an easy team to root for this season. In their 11-game losing streak and Big Ten winlessness, they’ve struggled to inspire much of anything in the way of interest, or intrigue, or emotion, really. (With the exception of the Michigan game, that is. That sucked.)
By far the most satisfying part of the season has been watching Tom Crean, watching him both on and off the court. Watching him handle his business, watch him coach every game like IU has a Final Four shot, watch him prod players along without showing even the slightest hint of frustration, watch him work a Chicago crowd into a veritable frenzy. All the while, his former team, Marquette, has been running roughshod over the best conference in college basketball; they might get a No. 1 NCAA Tourney seed. Until last night, it was a question as to whether or not IU would win a single game the rest of the season.
Ah, but win they did. Ryan predicted it (he downplays his predictive abilities, but the man has a gift), as did Devan Dumes and Tijan Jobe (whose new nickname should be “prophet.”) It felt like it was time, didn’t it? An awful Iowa team playing Indiana at home. Indiana seeming to, in its last few games, pull things together a bit more. Last night was the night.
It’s not about us, really, but I’m curious: After the game, how did you feel? Excited? Relieved? Anything? I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t overjoyed or thrilled or cathartically relieved like I assumed. I thought I would be jumping up and down, or something. Instead, I was just kind of pleased — glad to know the Hoosiers won’t go the entire season without a Big Ten win, that Crean’s and his players’ hard work was rewarded, at least for one night. Not overjoyed. Just happy. That’s good enough.
Of course, though the result was the same, there was plenty about the game that had 2008-09 Hoosiers written all over it. Let’s take a look:
The 11-game losing streak is over.
In a game that looked eerily similar to earlier contests the Hoosiers haven’t been able to close out down the stretch, Tom Crean’s club reversed the trend and fended off Iowa 68-60 in front of 14,247 fans in Assembly Hall. The win was the first since December 10 for the Hoosiers.
“It was a great win for us,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “As I said to the players late in the game and I said in the locker room, this will be the toughest win that they ever get. And it wasn’t just because it was game night, it was because we haven’t won in a while and I’m really proud of them.”
Indiana (6-15, 1-8 Big Ten) led by 13 at halftime and enjoyed a 20-point lead with 11:58 remaining. The Hoosiers, however, saw the gap close to 63-60 with 44 seconds remaining on a Jeff Peterson layup.
Crean then called for a timeout and Iowa fouled Verdell Jones, who hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 64-60. IU forced turnovers on Iowa’s final two possessions on steals by Devan Dumes and Nick Williams. A layup by Malik Story and a pair of free throws by Dumes sealed the victory.
It’s 9:30 at night, around 45 minutes after he’s left the stage, and Tom Crean is drawing a basketball court on a napkin with a sharpie. A fan has just asked the first-year IU coach to teach him how to break a press — actually, I can’t be sure on this, because the Tom Petty and John Mellencamp blasting on the speakers in the back room hindered my hearing, but for the sake of this post, let’s just go with that — and so Crean is explaining. He’s drawing. He’s motioning with his hands. He’s showing how to throw the proper pass.
This is Tom Crean. Always on the move. Always working. Always shaking hands. Always signing autographs. He’s a bit like our new president in that way, except Hoosier Nation is considerably smaller than America, though there’s about equal struggle in each right now.
When Crean took the stage after new AD Fred Glass last evening –who I particularly enjoyed by the way — it was what you would expect. Times are tough, I’ve been frustrated many times, but we’re getting better. I will recruit the best players in the country. We’ll be back. You fans are great. The IU fanbase is the best in the country. We need a win tomorrow night against Northwestern, and your support is crucial.
But there were things I wasn’t expecting: It’s clear Crean has an impressive knowledge of Hoosier players past, as he rattled off names of players that were playing on video screens around him. He gets it, gets the history, but also sees the future. And then, he had a surprise for the hundreds in attendance: Calbert Cheaney. The all-time leading scorer in Big Ten history came to the stage and went to bat for Crean. Said he’s the man for this job, said ever since he met him, Crean has been asking him to help out in any way he can, help him contribute somehow.
I didn’t leave the bar feeling excited, or pumped up, or anything like that. The rally didn’t quite affect me in the typical way one would think it would. Instead, I left feeling relieved, feeling proud even. Tom Crean knows what it takes, and he knows how to do it the right way. In time, we will be Indiana again.
Amidst a season of epic failure, that’s about as good as it gets right now.
Crean’s entire speech from last evening at Joe’s can be heard right here:
All we are past the mopey part of the season now? I’ll admit, I’ve gone through some weird attitudinal shifts toward the 2008-09 Indiana Hoosiers — going from depression to blind faith to cheeriness and back again a couple of times. The past week or so has been the worst. Just as the college basketball season is taking off, earning more nightly attention than at any other part of the year, the cruel reality about Indiana basketball was finally sinking in: IU is just plain awful. They’re going to be awful for the rest of the season. And no amount of rationalizing is going to make the experience any better.
So yeah, the past few weeks — the Michigan game, then the Illinois debacle, and so on — have been pretty depressing. It’s enough to challenge one’s sanity. Why am I watching this team? What’s the point? Do I really not care about Indiana basketball?
Of course I do, and the Hoosiers’ game against Minnesota proved why: They’re getting there. It might not happen on the road, and it might not happen soon, but IU will win a Big Ten game, and it will be awesome.
Until then there’s not a lot to analyze, really. The Hoosiers are just as bad as they look. They’re inefficient offensively because they turn the ball over like crazy. They allow far too many open looks, they don’t have the size to match up, they’re inexperienced, and so forth. There are only so many ways to write that brilliant batch of analysis you just read without getting sick of writing it, let alone reading it. But at one point, I now feel confident in saying, the stars will align, the opposing team won’t knock down those shots, the game will come down to the last few plays, and the Hoosiers won’t turn the ball over, or miss a free throw, or do something utterly erratic that boggles the mind and makes one throw a pillow at the opposite couch. They’ll complete that pass; they’ll make that shot; they’ll avoid weirdness. And they’ll win.
It will be short-lived and it might only be one game. But like I said: It will be awesome.
In what has been a theme throughout this season of rebuilding, the inexperience of Tom Crean’s club shined through down the stretch as Indiana fell 67-63 to Minnesota at Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers (5-13, 0-6 Big Ten) cut the Minnesota lead to 64-63 with 29 seconds remaining on two free throws by Nick Williams. Indiana immediately fouled Al Nolen, who knocked down two free throws to push the Golden Gopher lead back to three at 66-63.
Crean called for time with 21.8 seconds remaining, but the Hoosiers couldn’t get an open look and ultimately settled for an off-balance 3-point attempt by Devan Dumes that fell short. Minnesota’s Paul Carter grabbed the rebound, was fouled by Verdell Jones and knocked down a free throw to put the game out of reach.
“This is one of the tougher ones to swallow,” Crean said. “They all are. They are miserable for every coach and everybody that is a part of it.”
The loss was the fifth straight at Assembly Hall for Indiana, the longest home losing streak for the Hoosiers since the 1984-1985 season.
Dumes led all scorers with 19 points and was joined in double figures by Malik Story with 14 and Tom Pritchard with 10. Indiana hit 8 of 15 3-pointers, but hit just 11 of 21 free throws with eight misses coming in the second half.
“The numbers we chart in practice would astound you. But it is also an empty Assembly Hall,” Crean said. “It is just part of it. I don’t want to get frustrated with that. We just want to continue to put ourselves in pressure situations in practice. We were shooting 72 percent in the Big Ten going into today’s game.”
Damian Johnson paced Minnesota (17-3, 5-3) with 18 points. Ralph Sampson III added 13 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. The win snapped a two-game skid for the Golden Gophers and moved Tubby Smith to 10-4 all-time against Indiana.
“Every time they go out, they don’t give in, they don’t give up,” Smith said of Indiana. “It’s just a matter of sustaining it and consistency, and that’s what he’s getting from his kids. He’s getting a consistent effort. As he continues to recruit he’s going to have a very good team.”
Up next: Indiana will travel to Evanston on Wednesday for a 8:30 PM EST meeting with Northwestern. That game will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network.
T-shirt promotion and $5 balcony seats a success?: Indiana announced a crowd of 16,539, making Sunday’s game the most attended of the season to date.