Both the IU and Ohio State men’s basketball teams were upstaged by a fourth-grade girl on Sunday afternoon.
When Georgia Webb, one of the more petite members of the Firecrackers Jump Rope Team, latched on to two of her teammates and was slung around in the air as a human jump rope during the team’s halftime show, the IU crowd reacted with one of the few standing ovations of the entire day.
“The crowd’s reactions are awesome,” Firecrackers coach Lynn Kelley said. “That’s the fuel that makes them want to do more and get even better in practice.”
This is by no means insinuating what Webb and her teammates did wasn’t remarkable. In fact, the stunts the girls pull off with their jump ropes each show could be classified as pure wizardry.
Yet the impressiveness of the Firecrackers’ halftime show was magnified when comparing it to the basketball that was produced from both teams on the court.
If you would have offered me a chance to watch 20 extra minutes of jump roping instead of the rock fight that was the Hoosiers’ eventual 55-52 loss to the Buckeyes, I would have taken you up on that without hesitation.
The only moments that rivaled the crowd’s outpour of cheers in response to Webb’s jaw-dropping acrobatics on the decibel level were maybe when junior guard Devonte Green hit a long, go-ahead 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with just under two minutes to go.
Yet that big play still wasn't enough to help IU avoid a defeat. Rather, it was a rare occasion of offensive coherency in a game was devoid for most of the contest.
That low energy from the crowd during the actual game wasn’t from a lack of excitement. This was a momentous juncture in the season for the Hoosiers, especially when it comes to building a résumé to make the NCAA Tournament in March.
There was simply so little from either team for fans to cheer about. Sunday was a display of two middling teams just trying to survive in the purgatory between the middle to lower tiers of the Big Ten conference.
IU desperately needed a victory after losing eight of its last nine games. But instead of showing an inkling of urgency, it came out with no movement on the offensive end once again and sloppiness on both ends of the floor.
The only reason the game was close was because Ohio State wasn’t much better.
Sunday’s game wasn’t just a poor outing for IU. We’re past that point with this team. It was the kind of performance that has plagued the Hoosiers for the entire second half of the season and nothing seems to be fixing those problems anytime soon.
This was the last opportunity for IU to prove its Feb. 2 upset victory at Michigan State wasn’t a fluke. Time has run out for them. Any NCAA tournament hopes the Hoosiers have are hanging by the weakest of threads, and the only way they probably qualify in March is if they win out on the season or win the Big Ten Tournament.
At this point, those two options are wildly beyond belief, especially if IU continues to play like it did against Ohio State.
Looking back, the Hoosiers were lucky the Firecrackers came to town.
They shot some adrenaline into the crowd after a yawn of a first half. Maybe the school should consider hiring them full-time.
If this kind of low-level basketball continues, the attention and energy of a once optimistic fanbase is going to quickly dwindle.
The Hoosiers could really learn something from little Georgia Webb — she knows how to feed off the energy.