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Thursday, Feb. 29
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Bennett's health improves; players enjoy bye week

Associate coach expected to lead team Sunday

The prayers continue. The hospital visits continue. \nAnd the waiting continues.\nWomen's basketball coach Kathi Bennett's return to the sidelines after a car accident remains indefinite. Her team can only plan to have associate head coach Trish Betthauser at the helm for the near future.\nBut at least they know their coach is doing better after fracturing the second vertebra in her neck in a near head-on collision Friday morning.\nMonday, Bennett was able to walk the hallway and chatted with friends at Bloomington Hospital. She also didn't waste much more time away from work, looking at Nike catalogs and giving her players encouragement about their last game with her, a 67-59 loss to Penn State Thursday, point guard Heather Cassady said. \nThe progress shows after Bennett remained bedridden Friday and was fitted with a heavy halo device Saturday.\n"One thing she told me was, 'I'm so proud of you guys at the Penn State game. You only had four turnovers in the second half. That's what I really wanted to tell you today,'" Cassady said. "She wants us to bounce back like she's going to."\nBennett is expected to get out of the hospital as soon as today, and IU will announce later this week when she might return to coaching. Meanwhile, Betthauser plans to coach the team against No. 15 Minnesota at Assembly Hall Sunday. The Hoosiers' regular season is scheduled to last only three more weeks. Bennett is expected to wear the halo for nearly two months.\n"I went in there, and they said six to eight weeks," Cassady said. "She said her goal was five and a half. She's a fighter."\nThe Hoosiers (11-13, 5-8 Big Ten) have battled only one team since Bennett's hospitalization, a 79-55 loss to Purdue Sunday. IU sits in ninth place in the Big Ten, ahead of 14-9 Michigan and 4-19 Northwestern. But the Hoosiers don't play a Thursday game as usual, allowing time to rest and recuperate. \n"I'm kind of going day-by-day," Betthauser said when asked if she anticipates leading IU the rest of the season. "I'm trying to do what she would want me to do. I really hope that she comes back. She's incredible at what she does. There's no way to replace someone like that. I'm going to do whatever she needs. I'm going to be whatever she needs."\nRight now, Bennett needs continual support.\nHer father, Dick Bennett, the former coach of the Wisconsin men's team, has stayed in Bloomington since Friday and, at Tuesday's practice, gave the Hoosiers feedback on double teams, Betthauser said.\nBennett's comical brother Tony Bennett, an assistant with the Badger squad, will also be in town for tonight's game against the IU men.\n"She's in great spirits, and she's got a little of her spunk back, which is nice to see," Betthauser said. "They sort of have that teasing relationship, and I'm sure he will not save any jokes for her expense." \nJokes and spunk come a long way from the tears and worry experienced after 9 a.m. Friday, when Bennett's vehicle hit an oncoming vehicle as she tried to make a left turn onto Linglebach Lane off 17th St. Bennett was not wearing a seatbelt. A halo device, a type of neck brace, was screwed into her skull Saturday to stabilize her neck so that the fracture could heal on its own.\nCassady said she learned about the accident a half hour after it happened from her hairdresser, Treasa Ratliff, the woman in the vehicle that Bennett's car hit. Cassady called the assistant coaches, who phoned the hospital. Cassady later went to Assembly Hall to pray with her teammates and wait several hours for more information.\nThat afternoon, Cassady said she and some of her teammates visited the coach, who was in a great deal of pain but happy to see them.\n"The first couple times were hard because she's such a strong lady, and she's had the halo on her, so it's not a typical Coach Bennett look," Cassady said. "Inside, she's strong right now."\nBut adjusting to Betthauser's style hasn't proven too difficult, especially because both coaches stress defense, guard Jill Hartman said. Still, the absence of Bennett has created a void. After all, Bennett has commandeered IU to a 31-23 record in two years.\n"I think we've all tried to pull together to get through it together," Hartman said. "That's all we can do really because we miss her a lot, and there's not really much we can do about it.\n"We just have to pretend like she's there and keep her real close to get through it"

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