Earl Calloway on a breakaway layup, clang. Rod Wilmont on a 3-point attempt, clang. Clang. Clang. Clang all game. Until, suddenly and finally, IU arose from its slumber. \nThis is a team that succeeds, when and only when it’s knocking down shots from the outside. That didn’t happen in the first half of the Hoosiers’ 54-49 loss to UCLA on Saturday. That didn’t happen in the second half until very late. But still, it wasn’t too late. No matter how woeful this team looked on offense, still, there was time. Lance Stemler – Lance freaking Stemler! – hit two 3-pointers. Wilmont hit one, too. Suddenly, it was tied. Could the Hoosiers really pull this off, after being down by 16 points and after scoring only 13 in the first half? It was there for the taking. \nBut UCLA’s Arron Afflalo made his free throws. And after Stemler led Earl Calloway a bit too much on IU’s third inbound attempt with the Hoosiers down two points and 35 seconds remaining, Darren Collison made his, too. \nA furious late rally by IU aside, that was it, the game was over. UCLA was too strong, too athletic and too experienced in the end for IU. \nAfter the game, IU coach Kelvin Sampson had this to say: “I’m really proud of my team. In a lot of ways, this game embodies what this team is all about.” \nI couldn’t think of more fitting words to qualify this game. \nThis was IU’s identity all year. Overcoming all its deficiencies on the court, and somehow, someway still being within striking distance for a win. IU – save for one game at Purdue – never lost a game all season by more than eight points. That’s pretty impressive. \nAt Duke, with some of IU’s studs on the bench, a freshman and a former walk-on brought the Hoosiers back from a nine-point deficit in the second half. Those two – Armon Bassett and Errek Suhr – each had 3-point attempts to tie the game in the final seconds. \nAt Kentucky, this squad missed 50 shots, but somehow, someway, was in position to force overtime with the ball in its hands, down three, with seconds remaining. \nBut that was IU all year, on the verge of being a great team, but failing all too often. Great teams find a way to win those games. Pretty good teams sometimes do, sometimes don’t. IU was a pretty good team this year. \nThe Hoosiers achieved as they were supposed to – 21 wins, third place in the Big Ten and amongst the top 32 teams in the nation. \nThey didn’t quite have enough talent to get any further. There were obvious dents in IU’s armor, especially on the front line. But this team never gave up and always competed. IU never played scared. There were no deer-in-the-headlights moments, so much a part of this team’s identity under Mike Davis. It’s a credit to Sampson for bringing in a new mentality in his first year at the helm. The Hoosiers – though at times didn’t show it – bought into his system. But it’s hard taking a group of kids you’ve never before met, who know of only one coach and one style, and breaking them of it. Sampson tried. Boy, did he try. \nHe’ll try with some of his own recruits next season – a talented lot – and for years to come. They’ll get it. With his ability to recruit, if Sampson gets players of a higher skill level to compete and give as much heart as this squad did, the future looks promising for a program now 20 years removed from its last national title. \nYou’d be a fool to think any different.