Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Returning to the mean

No, I didn't watch the IU game last night, and I'm inclined to just go ahead and toss that VHS tape in the trash-bin after checking in a couple of times in the second half. There's certainly nothing I want to see in terms of the Hoosier's shooting performance or ball-handling abilities (12 turnovers in a very slow game).

Yesterday, I was trying to not get too high on the highs, and after Indiana's 51-43 loss to Illinois, I'll try not to get too low. But kudos to Illinois, Shaun Pruitt was ready to play (10 pts, 13 rebounds), Warren Carter looked good down the stretch, and they seemed energized on defense on the few plays I did see. That's what playing at home in a Big Ten venue should be like. Illinois very smartly slowed the pace, and came out of the locker-room in the second half with an 8-0 tear that ended up being the difference in the game.

All that said, this was a game that was there for the taking, and IU didn't take it. (Some have described their performance as "listless"). It would have never been easy, but all the pub that IU has gotten and in getting ranked (and frankly, earning it the hard way) I think took the chip off the shoulders of the players. And there's not much good here, although it looks like Mike White is continuing to play better.

As I wrote yesterday, with Brian Randle out, and with Jamar Smith and Chester Frazier at less then 100%, this was a chance for IU to steal one on the road. Imagine how ugly this game would've been if Pruitt hadn't played?
While letting this get away after the lovely win at UConn is understandable (Illinois needed a quality win bad), as the Hoosiers were not coming into a game feeling under-appreciated for the first time, Sampson has to get some mileage out of this one. If he can use this to get IU fired up for the next two home games (Michigan & Wisconsin), we'll be alright.

I had this game circled as a loss since the schedule was released. If IU can beat Michigan and Wisconsin (and the UW game is a big if), the Hoosiers will be right back in the Conference Championship hunt, albeit with 5 road games left.


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