Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chucking It From the Not-So-Cheap Seats

The Girl and I took a trip to Bloomington this past weekend to see our beloved Hoosiers in person.  We made the plans a long time ago, bought the tickets off of eBay, and had no idea at the time that we were going to be attending a game amid the maelstrom that is the IU basketball program right now. Thankfully for us, we were able to see a win for the Hoosiers, and it was marvelous for this fan to see a game in which they played as well as they have all season.

Piggy-backing on some things Lawton already pointed out, I will say that I thought the team got excellent contributions from just about everyone. Not good contributions.  Excellent ones. DJ White was the only thing going for IU in the early minutes.  Of course, that's just par for the course for him, but he was still doing Good Things. Jamarcus Ellis, of the 24% 3-point shooting for the season, hit a couple of big 3's early, and they were a key to the comeback run. Plus, he threw that silly alley-oop pass to DJ. Ellis's 157.6 O rating is high for anyone, but it's huge for him. Kyle Taber ... I know I've talked about him a lot, but he is  a walk on. And he was excellent for the Hoosiers again. He hit his only free throws, grabbed a couple of rebounds, made a huge steal, and helped pick up the leadership with DJ injured. The Hoosier D played its best while Taber was out there, too, holding the Spartans to 0.75 points per possession while he was in the game.  Only one other player can match that, and only one player's team efficiency margin was better than Taber's. (Speaking of DJ's injury, I saw the season flash before my eyes as DJ writhed in pain on the floor. Let's hope he's OK, because I fear that all is lost without him.) Jordan Crawford, despite a propensity to toss up poor shots -- a propensity I fear he will never get rid of -- was marvelous.  He hit most of those shots and dished 5 assists as well.  Lots of good stuff there.

I will only repeat one set of Lawton's kudos, and those go to DeAndre Thomas. I think Thomas is a guy who will eventually be a weapon for IU. He has good feet and a nice touch, and he's a big guy (although I think he needs to be less big to be a weapon). In a game where DJ was out due to injury, Thomas played 16 and a half minutes and played them well.  He also looked as tired as any player I think I've ever seen on a basketball court, and he gutted it out. The one player who matched Taber's team D efficiency and bested his team efficiency margin?  DeAndre Thomas.  'Nuff said.

But I didn't really want to talk about the numbers or the overall game that much. The Girl and I got the game about an hour before tip off (I like to watch the shoot-around), and we quickly noticed Erin Andrews's terrible green sweater. I don't know how it looked to you, but it looked somewhat teal when I later saw it on TV.  But it looked awfully damned green in person.  Grrrr! Still, the students love her, and they chanted her name every time she was doing a report, as well as a few times when she wasn't.

Speaking of love, I have never been in a louder Assembly Hall. The Girl has, but perhaps only because she was there when Kirk Haston hit a buzzer-beating 3 to beat then-#1 ranked Michigan State. She rushed the floor that night, so she has extra happy memories of that game.  She was also at Rupp Arena for the 2002 Sweet Sixteen game when the Hoosiers improbably beat Duke. Nonetheless, she agreed that the atmosphere for the game was electric, and it was without question the loudest of the 10 or so games I've been to there. The fans seemed to want to show their support for the team, despite any negative feelings they may have about the coach. And those feelings aren't so crystal clear. When Sampson was introduced, it was to a good number of boos, along with some vain attempts to chant his name, attempts which were repeated 2 or three times during the course of the game, failing every time. Every time but the last that is. As the game came down the stretch, Armon Bassett made a huge play, and the whole place was thrilled, loud, raucous even. Sampson, showing more emotion than a coach can really afford to show in a normal situation, emphatically pumped his fist and met Bassett for a hug on his way to the bench. As the players hugged their coach, the Kelvin Sampson chant went up again, and this time it had some real throat to it.  This time, no boos were audible.  While I couldn't join in the chant, I did drink in the power of the moment. It was one to remember. I looked at the Girl (who was also not chanting), shaking my head, and she said, "I know.  But the thing is, I do like him."

And I think that's really the crux of it. Sampson, someone who can clearly coach 'em up, comes across as a likeable, affable, pleasant guy. He just happens to struggle to follow the rules. In some ways it's the same as the situation was with Bobby Knight. He's someone who can coach a team to play basketball. He just couldn't follow the rules. True, they were different rules, but they were rules, nonetheless. The difference is that Knight wasn't particularly likeable (at least not to me), even though one could get behind him as a basketball coach. Ultimately, the situation is the same: as much as I wish it weren't so, as much as I wish for a program to achieve some tranquility, the coach has to go.

But I'm with the fans at the Hall the other night. I like this team and these players, and I'm rooting for them like crazy.

1 comment:

Don said...

You were in the area and didn't bring the girl by! Just as well. I was so sick we couldn't have let you in the house anyway. I didn't even see the first half on TV.

I've got tickets available for the 500 if you want them, and even a place to stay, but we will be out of town.

They did show Herbert on TV a couple times last night but I had not heard he was Sampson's champion. If so, that explains a lot. He was the worst President IU has had. Yes, worse than his predecessor.