Three used to be the magic number.
Then there was IU coach Tom Crean.
While the Big Ten Network has aired a montage of basketball highlights to the sounds of De La Soul’s “Magic Number” track throughout this year, it was the No. 2 that took on a special meaning at Thursday night’s Big Ten contest in Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers got clobbered by another upper-tier Big Ten team Thursday night. IU lost by 32, for those who decided to actually keep score.
But it was a pair of second-half technical fouls by the second-year IU coach — separated by 29 seconds — that made the difference last night.
“That was the highlight of my season, right there — Tom Crean getting kicked out,” I overheard a Big Red Basketball Band member in passing, just moments after the game.
Midway through the second half, the remaining fans — all, I don’t know, 8,000 of them — were pound-for-pound the rowdiest we’ve seen them since the Kentucky game.
Sure, they were fired up for Purdue a couple weeks back. Certainly we won’t forget the time IU beat Minnesota and 50 or so students had the brilliant idea to rush the court.
Yet it was at 9:53 in the second half, with the score at 58-33 in favor of Wisconsin, when the IU faithful finally got their money’s worth amid another blowout.
It was at that moment Crean got tossed after his second “T.” He didn’t even stay long enough for the under-eight timeout flags.
Assistant coach Tim Buckley had to hold back Crean before he screamed and shouted his way through the northeast tunnel and into the IU locker room — a good show for the fans.
“It happened,” Crean said after the game. “I don’t really know what else to say.”
Well, I’ll fill in the blanks.
Clearly he did it to fire up his players and send a message.
“He was definitely trying to make a point, and he doesn’t need to do it like that anymore,” freshman forward Derek Elston said.
After the Minnesota game, Crean talked about the difference between hope and belief. He said he didn’t hope the program was coming back, he believed it. More so, he believes in his guys.
If some of the Hoosiers aren’t willing to fight, we saw firsthand that Crean is.
In what might seem like a weird way of going about it, Crean proved he’s literally willing to take one — or two — for the team.
Elston, the lone Hoosier in double figures, said when the second technical was called, he knew Crean was taking things seriously.
“He doesn’t want to get pushed around in this league, and neither do we,” Elston said. “After that happened, we kind of all were like, ‘We need to start taking this personally.’”
It was a good move by Crean, and it did appear to inspire the Hoosiers in a somewhat chaotic finish to the game.
IU was outscored 20-13 the rest of the way, but either way, it changed what was happening in Assembly Hall — even if the team’s losing ways didn’t.
The final score hardly differed from some of the results we’ve seen of late, but the script changed. Crean once said referees wouldn’t “tee” him up, even when he tried getting one last year.
It was about time something like this happened.
As the team changes pace from a brutal stretch against the Big Ten’s best against Iowa on the road this Sunday, we’ll see how this team responds.
The fans got, in part, maybe what they wanted from Crean. After all, it was probably the first time we’ve heard a “Tom Crean” chant from the students since Hoosier Hysteria.
IU has now lost nine in a row, but for the fans, at least there’s finally something positive to talk about.
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