sports   |   men's basketball

Expect crowd to play factor in Maryland game

No, the team did not clinch a Big Ten title. No, the Hoosiers did not upend a ranked opponent. In fact, it was just IU’s first win in 12 games – and what turned out to be their last of the season – and it took the team to a meager 6-15 record.

When IU defeated Iowa 68-60 in February, it sent the crowd into a frenzy and placed many of those in attendance on what appeared to be cloud nine.

The atmosphere was intense that night, especially in the second half, and it mirrored a crowd that in years past had helped IU win much bigger games.

Today should be no different.

With Maryland as the opponent and the game being broadcast on ESPN2, the IU players are expecting a lot out of the crowd.

“I’m looking forward to it,” junior guard Jeremiah Rivers said. “The students are going to be jacked up, it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be fun and real energetic.”

Whether or not we ask for it, not a press conference goes by in which IU coach Tom Crean fails to mention the home crowd.

At times it might look like a pitch to get more butts in the Assembly Hall seats, but looking at many of IU’s home contests from a year ago, it’s easy to see why he loves what the fans bring to each game – the students especially.

Last November, it was clear the crowd factored into IU squeaking past IUPUI for the team’s second win. Seven games later, it was the fans that helped set the tone for the Hoosiers as they built the lead up to 21 at one point versus TCU. And of course the crowd was a factor in pushing IU past Iowa for its lone Big Ten victory.  

Even in the losses, the student presence – or lack thereof – was quite evident. During winter break, in games not part of the student ticket packages, IU captured a 21-point first half lead versus Lipscomb and held a 20-point advantage against Michigan. Both games went into the loss column, as the typical noisy crowd was anything but.

The games are no doubt decided on the court, but there’s no denying what a deafening crowd has the possibility of doing for a home team.

“Tremendous” and “paramount” were two words Crean used to describe the potential student impact during today’s Big Ten/Atlantic Coast Conference Challenge battle with the Terrapins.

“They create the atmosphere,” Crean said. “It’s not the team that creates all the energy. The crowd creates the energy and the team feeds off that and hopefully they can keep it going. You can’t have success without great student support.”

Crean continues to preach that students must get to the games early – after all, the non-students in attendance for the Northwestern State game on Saturday filled the south end zone seats well ahead of game time, he said.

Either way, once the referee’s whistles blow, and the ESPN cameras start rolling, the fans can show Maryland that great college basketball environments do not just reside in the ACC.  

The crowd made its presence known for the Georgia Tech game two years ago, and the atmosphere was electric when No. 1 Duke came into Assembly Hall for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge four years ago.

“I’ve seen the Duke film when Duke played Indiana a few years back,” Crean said on Saturday following the Northwestern State game. “I’ve heard people tell me about that among many of the other memories that they have. We’ve got to start building memories like that with crowds like that and a game like that.

“If the Big Ten and ESPN are going to put us in situations like they did last year, with us playing Wake Forest with a team that is picked to finish 11th, and playing Maryland with a team that is picked to finish 10th, we’ve got to have the crowd help us in every possible way.”

And with a “White Out” in the forecast, the fans also can show that IU does not in fact “Fear the Turtle.” 

“We have got to get this crowd as great as it can possibly be, as nuts as it can possibly be,” Crean said Saturday. “Tell the fire marshal to stay home that night. We’ll give him tickets right behind the bench. We will let him come, the police chief too. We just need them all in here; we need everybody in here to make this place nuts.”

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