Saturday, February 7, 2009
Crean's First Big Ten Win
I'm not quite ready to post Number Nine All-Time Moment yet. It's coming. But in lieu of that, let me tell you about a game that damn near broke open my personal Top Ten. As mentioned earlier, I took advantage of $5 balcony seats to go see Tom Crean and IU in the flesh for the first time this year against Iowa. This was easily the best ten dollars (Alli came with me) that I have ever spent. Easily. IU, riding an eleven-game losing streak, caught an Iowa squad that might charitably be described as 'average' off guard on Wednesday night. IU led by as much as twenty at times in the second half before making things interesting, letting the Hawkeyes close to within three at 59-56 before Devan Dumes (who was absolutely clutch all night long) drained a trey and forced a turnover, earning the Hoosiers their first conference win.
This was a great moment because rarely have I ever seen as much sheer joy out of a victorious team in a regular season game. After the game, the players walked along the elated student section on the south baseline, high-fiving and celebrating with fans that Crean called "the best in the world" when he took the mic at center court immediately postgame. Tom was just ridiculously happy. He told radio announcer Don Fisher after the game that it felt like a 75lb weight had been lifted from his back. There is no question that this was the win that really marked the start of the Crean era at IU.
I took the opportunity, since this was my first time seeing the IU Kids up close, to sort of scout out the young fellas, see how they compared to my expectations from previous games, and whatnot. In no particular order...
Devan Dumes - This former juco guard has taken the leadership mantle at Indiana and is running with it. He dropped 27 on Iowa after a huge game against Northwestern and is leading the team in scoring. Good shooting stroke from range and a decent handle, although he seems eager to defer the point guard duties to either Verdell Jones III or Daniel Moore. I'm not sure whether this is intentional or not, but I'd bet that he's playing a 2-guard style on purpose. This is a little frustrating, because Verdell... well, he just makes me nervous!
Verdell Jones III - The stringbean freshman point guard is a joy to watch on defense and simply nerve wracking to watch with the ball. It seems like he's borderline traveling every time he starts to move. But he's got a good eye for open teammates and will certainly improve with another offseason. And, as Alli noted, "Hey, he's got a cute smile!"
Tom Pritchard only played around fifteen minutes against Iowa, as he got in foul trouble against their seemingly more athletic bigs and did very little. Pritchard really needs DJ White to come back to IU and give him some intensive 1-on-1 coaching. I would love to see this happen.
Lastly, Nick Williams confirmed my sense that he has the best upside of any of the Hoosiers' frosh. With 14 points and 9 boards, he showed off athleticism, good defense, excellent midrange shooting touch, and an instinctive ability to go inside on both ends of the floor. I'm really excited to see him improve over the next several years. Malik Story and Daniel Moore both looked good. Matt Roth is a beast from behind the three point line, but his defense is just a joke. I have seen better defense played at the HPER in pickup games. Actually, in almost every pickup game. He sags off his man habitually and is slow to respond. It ain't good. But hey, he's only 18. Plenty of time to work on that.
This game was clearly a cathartic experience for the whole IU basketball program, and a joy to watch. I definitely got a little misty up there in the stands as they celebrated their first big win. Will definitely be trying to get to the Feb. 15 game vs. ranked Illinois, if nothing else so I can heckle that pain in the a** Bruce Weber with the rest of the Hoosiers faithful.
Oh, and the "HEEEEEY, YOU SUCK!" cheer is back! Anyone know what I'm talking about? They stopped playing this song after some tightwad alumnus complained last year, but it returned on Wednesday, so that was great. I was also reminded of Shark steadfastly refusing to do any of the motions for the IU standard songs during all of last season. Good times!