Indiana Daily Student

Hoosiers loose, ready for Utah

Fifth-seeded IU looks for first tourney win since 1999

SACRAMENTO - Sophomore Jared Jeffries joked with freshman Donald Perry, telling him to dive into press row for a loose ball. Senior Dane Fife wildly applauded every made free throw. IU coach Mike Davis' youngest son, Antoine, entertained girls sitting near the court. And Jeffries capped off the 50-minute workout Wednesday night with an alley-oop off the backboard to Jeff Newton for a reverse dunk. Their recent struggles in the post season still fresh in their minds, the fifth-seeded Hoosiers are not about to be intimidated at the thought of another early exit from the NCAA Tournament. Tonight, at a little after 10 p.m. Bloomington time, IU takes on 12th-seeded Utah in an opening round game in the South bracket at Arco Arena in Sacramento.\nThe Hoosiers have not won a game in the NCAA Tournament since 1999, when they beat George Washington before suffering their worst Tournament loss ever against St. John's. IU has since lost to Pepperdine and Kent State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the last two years.\nSome might have thought the Hoosiers would be sluggish going into this week. IU had another tough loss to end the Big Ten Tournament last weekend in Indianapolis, falling 63-61 to Luke Recker and Iowa at Conseco Fieldhouse.\nStill, the Hoosiers seem relaxed and think they are a different team than they were last year, when they lost to 13th-seeded Kent State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. "Last year was a lot of our players' first year in the Tournament," junior guard Tom Coverdale said. "I think we looked past (Kent State) a little bit. That won't happen again."\nIt will be hard to overlook a Utah (21-9) team that has not lost in the first round of the Tournament in eight tries under coach Rick Majerus. The Utes finished second in the Mountain West Conference. A trio of versatile forwards in Nick Jacobson, Britton Johnsen and Jeff Johnsen leads Utah. All three average more than 10 points per game. Britton Johnsen was the conference's Player of the Year as voted by the coaches. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged more than 15 points per game in conference play.\nThere are some similarities in the way the two teams play. But Davis pointed out that the Utah big men like to shoot the ball but still have a post presence.\n"They're big guys can really shoot the basketball. We have to extend our defense," Davis said. "But they'll try to drive on you if your head it turned to the basket.\n"The thing that concerns me more than anything is their inside game. It's very important our big guys stay alert."\nJarrad Odle, who was hampered with foul trouble against Reggie Evans and the Hawkeyes last week, sees an opportunity to be more of a factor tonight.\n"I really hurt our team (Saturday)," Odle said. "I'm going to take a lot of pride in how I play (Thursday)." Coverdale said his back is feeling much better than it was last week, but it still tightens on him at times. Jeffries said his right ankle still bothers him and probably will until he can rest it for more than five days, which won't be until the season is over. In 2000 it was a first round loss to 11th-seeded Pepperdine. Then it was a loss to Kent State in San Diego in 2001. Davis knows he is 0-for-1 in the NCAA Tournament and that Majerus has an eight-game winning streak in the first round.\nBut Davis said many things are different going into tonight's game. What has happened in the past won't matter.\n"(Majerus') reputation is to win the first game. Ours is to lose the first game," Davis said. "We'll see what happens. I just feel like we're a totally different team."\nDavis suffered disappointing losses to Iowa in the last two Big Ten Tournaments and the loss to the Golden Flashes. 20-win seasons are nice, but he knows what the Hoosiers need to do to be thought of as successful.\n"They judge us now on what we do in the Tournament," Davis said. "(Thursday) is probably the most important game of the season."\nTRAVEL TROUBLES\nJeffries had stories to tell the media Wednesday, entertaining the crowd by explaining how difficult it was for the Hoosiers to get from the airport to the team hotel when IU arrived Tuesday night. Jeffries wasn't too big a fan of the flight either, which had the Hoosiers stopping in Dallas before coming to Sacramento. But Jeffries was able to deal with the delays by watching movies on his portable DVD player he got for Christmas. "If I didn't have movies, it would have been ugly," Jeffries joked.\nPRO TALK\nDavis answered questions about Jeffries' possible entry into the NBA Draft, but didn't have a definitive answer. But Davis did say the decision would ultimately not be his. "We'll sit down at the end of the season. The final decision will be his and his parents, not mine," Davis said. "I think if he stays, we have a chance to be a very good basketball team." Asked if he will take the same approach he did with Kirk Haston last year, Davis joked, "I hope not, because Kirk left"

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