Hoosiers show progress in 72-70 loss to Illini

  • 01/30/2010 5:20 pm in

A little over one year ago, I piled into a car with Matt Dollinger and Tom Kirby and headed west to Spaceship Assembly Hall for IU’s first post-Eric Gordon trip to Urbana-Champaign. Less than nine minutes later, Dollinger was begging me to go pull the car around.

I bring that up, because many of you have, at various points this season, asked for more visible improvement from the Indiana basketball team than what you’ve seen so far.

Well, I offer you this: Just 385 days after a 24-4 game-opening run begat a 76-45 pasting at the hands of the Illini, Indiana took what some considered an NCAA Tournament team inside the game’s last second — literally — before succumbing by just two points, 72-70 in one of the Big Ten’s toughest road environments.

No, this isn’t a moral victory. Moral victories are stupid. Really stupid. Annoyingly stupid. This was a loss, and surely a tough one to absorb.

But if you don’t look at this game and see the obvious improvement, then your eyes are closed.

The Hoosiers overcame a sluggish beginning with big early points from Jordan Hulls, who found his 3-point range to score 11 in the first half. Verdell Jones finished the period strong with 11 as well, and four assists.

We’ll always remember Devan Dumes’ halfcourt shot, when he poked the ball away from D.J. Richardson, chased down the loose ball and tied the game from midcourt, thumping his chest as his team skipped down the tunnel to halftime.

The shot was vital, obviously, because it capped a 16-4 Indiana run to end the half. But it also seemed like a turning point in the action, one that cued a more veteran performance from Indiana in the second half.

Yes, there were still turnovers, still head-scratching decisions. But there was also defensive focus, excellent individual performances and a collective team effort at the free-throw line (19-23) that has rarely been seen from this team in the last year-plus.

“We didn’t beat ourselves today and that’s the bottom line as you grow,” coach Tom Crean told Don Fischer on his postgame radio show. “You first have to learn how not to lose before you can win and we made a lot of strides in that area this week.”

Verdell Jones was immense, with 22 total points and a 10-of-12 mark from the charity stripe. Dumes and Hulls added 11 each off the bench and as a team, Indiana pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, had 22 points in the paint and outperformed Illinois 35-33 overall on the boards.

“Our confidence was high,” Crean said. “This team has to have an edge and an energy about them. And when they do, we play very well and we have a chance to win all the games that we’re in.”

In the end, Illinois won because IU had no answer for their post offense at times, and Demetri McCamey put in the kind of individual performance that made Kelvin Sampson so covet his services when the former was still balling up at St. Joseph.

You know, normal reasons for losing a basketball game. Isn’t that progress?

+ Box score

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  • Druid

    I would add that my hats off to this entire team as well as Coach Crean. They played very good on the road and if it wasn’t for that ridiculous foul call on Jeremiah Rivers in the last minute or so going for a loose ball, we may have pulled this one out. I am very pleased with our progress thus far. I was very proud of the Hoosiers today and I would bet if you’d ask the illini players, they would tell you how lucky they were to get this win. Bring on the soilers.

  • peaychris

    i would like to commend rivers on his free throw shooting.. much better and he looks to be taking over a leadership role.. great game for the hoosiers even in a loss.. IU is playing much better in the b10 that i ever thought after the out of conference games.. watford is continues to be a question mark for me.. he needs to play stronger..

  • Kelin Blab

    + J. Rivers showed his heart today stepping up making those freebies, while 99% of the IU faithful closed their eyes…including me. It seem like he has been working on his shot too.
    + I will take the progress and this team will win another road game this year, this is not last years squad at all.
    + Like the big line up
    + Crean coached his ass off in this one, keeping the guys into the game whether they were up or down, McCamey made a tough shot so not much could be done. Got good minutes form Bawa, Tija, Elston, and Dumes.

  • slyslim

    That lame 'over the back' call was a back breaker, and Tisdale knocks down 2 freebies! Rivers was going away & just was stronger. Tough loss.

    Rivers also hit 2 consecutive free throws, & under pressure. Big improvement!

  • tmeaster

    Bad call, but not a back breaker…I was proud that they didn't pack it in after that. They came to tie it up at 70.

    Mccamey was the difference…he made some tough shots down the stretch.

  • GFDave

    Illinois won this game more than we lost it. We really didn't have much of an answer for their pick and roll. The winning off-balance shot by McCamey was money on his part. If Dumes stays closer, a foul is going to be called, and Watford just couldn't get over in time.

  • tberry

    We didn't have an answer for their 7 footer.

    We need some hieght!!!

  • I think we had a good answer for Tisdale. He scored 12 points. In the Home Game Vs. the illini he put up 27. We didnt have an answer for McAmeys circus shots.

  • 47250HoosierFan

    where was Elston in the final minutes…. on the bench, I would trade DE for Pritchard in a min, but it doesnt seem the coach wants it that way. so he can be content with TP stat line 0f more fouls than points or rebounds for the rest of the year

  • downingsfifth

    My damn eyes! They were closed at the Iowa game.

    Question: Were we guarding the Illini player inbounding the ball before McCamey put teardrops into my barely open eyes?

  • Joe

    Our answer was not fouling! That guy hit FT after FT in our first meeting at the Real Assembly Hall.

  • slyslim

    Our boys did rally back and played well down the stretch. Got to give credit, McCamey hit a tough shot, lucky b*&^%$#@! :o)

  • Man i hope we get a NIT invite