I had the unbelievable opportunity to attend the Indiana vs. Northwestern game as a member of the media. It was everything I thought it would be, and more.
Surreal would be one word, among many, to describe it. Being in the same room with people who’s work I’ve read for years almost had me pinching myself at first. But after shaking hands with Don Fischer & Clark Kellogg and not peeing my pants, I actually relaxed a little.
I took advantage of the access I was granted and I sat in on Tom Allen’s press conference, and then made my way court side. I’ve been on Branch McCracken Court numerous times, but something about the badge hanging around my neck made it different.
Once the game started I completely settled down and was focused solely on the game and the game only. Until breaks in the action, upon which I looked to my right, then my left and I once again saw people that’s writing I seek out regularly.
The game itself was the absolute best game defensively that an Indiana team has played in quite some time. Had the offense been clicking in the first half, the game would have gotten out of hand for Northwestern pretty quickly, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Even though Indiana seemed to be in complete control, the scoreboard said otherwise. Some early fouls trouble was partly to blame, but poor shooting and poor decision making were big culprits too. The Hoosiers led by only 5 at the half, 24-19 over Northwestern.
Coming out of the break it was obvious that Coach Miller had seen something with Northwestern’s zone that the Hoosiers could exploit, and they did. Attacking with Juwan Morgan slashing to the middle and Justin Smith on the baseline caused the Wildcats to compact their zone more into the lane, which in turn left the Hoosiers some wide open looks, which they knocked down.
The defense didn’t let up any in the second half, and couple that with the offense clicking, it was as good a half of basketball on both ends of the floor that the Hoosiers have played. What eventually became a 28 point lead for Indiana, turned into a 20 point home victory over a quality Big Ten opponent.
There is obviously still so much more room for improvement, but it’s also obvious that for the most part this team is starting to gain an identity. They are starting to understand that if they don’t play defense they’re going to first hear about it, and then sit and think about it for awhile. If they turn the ball over due to just plain carelessness, they are again going to hear about it, and then sit and think about it.
The Indiana University basketball program is in good hands people. I believed it when the announcement was made that Archie Miller would be the next coach of our beloved Hoosiers, and now I know it. Currently tied for 4th place in the Big Ten with Michigan State, the Hoosiers are beginning to play together as a cohesive unit, and it has led to the best stretch of play which makes the tough losses earlier in the year seem like a far-cry from where they are now.
As an added bonus to another great experience in Assembly Hall for me, former Hoosier great AJ Guyton was recognized. And to top off an incredible evening, the incredible Tyra Buss of the Lady Hoosiers was also recognized.
My drive home wasn’t on the same level of happy that I drove home from the “Watshot” game with, but I was definitely smiling for all of the reasons above.
The Hoosiers look to continue their hot streak as they head into Michigan State Friday night.