As he watched the ball, junior forward Christian Watford kept his right hand in the air.
The fans stood with their hands raised, holding their breath. The five red banners softly swayed.
Then, the sound of pure swish echoed. The golden numbers lit 0.0.
Across Assembly Hall, the wave of emotion released.
A decade of pent up frustration was freed onto Branch McCracken court.
Since 2001, after former IU Coach Bob Knight was fired, Indiana has been roaming a desert in search of respectability.
IU Coach Tom Crean’s first three years brought the worst season records to Assembly Hall in its history.
On Dec. 10, the Hoosiers found paradise.
An uproar filled the rafters. The IU men’s basketball team celebrated in a pile. Thousands of fingers pointed in the air. Seniors who sat through a 6-25 record their freshman season watched their team upset the country’s premier team to turn the card to 9-0.
The faithful stormed the court.
“This is Indiana. This is Indiana,” fans shouted as they swarmed past black-shirted security guards. A guard threw both his hands up like stop signs toward the rushing crowd. They couldn’t even be slowed.
Fans sprinted. Some tripped and fell. Some were even trampled.
Members of the Big Red Basketball Band’s first instinct was to protect their instruments from the chaos. They lifted their trombones and trumpets above their heads before dropping them to their mouths to play the fight song.
“We’re No. 1,” a fan shouted. “No. 1, baby.”
Fans in the general admission seats became restless to join the party at center court.
They began jumping over the cinder block walls, using the scoreboard as a ladder rung.
More fans spilled over the edge. Policemen stood on the wood bleachers with their hands extended, catching fans as they jumped and sprinted the second their foot touched the wood.
“Careful,” one officer said. “Here you go.”
Once they hit the court, they slammed into one another in jubilation.
Fans poured across all avenues of the hall. A mother stood protecting her two young children, their eyes wide at the sight of what college basketball means to Bloomington.
Gray-haired men shouted. Friends hugged. Fans high-fived.
“We did it,” a Hoosier alumna cheered before kissing her husband. “We’re back.”
The victory brought back an old feeling.
Saturday night brought back the faith that Butler basketball isn’t what the state of Indiana should be known for.
This is Indiana basketball. It’s the five banners. It’s Martha the Mop Lady. It’s the costumes and the candy stripes. It’s the tradition.
After inheriting a program in shambles, Crean had now become the shepherd. At the edge of the court, the coach watched as the floor disappeared beneath a red sea.
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