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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

COLUMN: Indiana men’s basketball played 36 solid minutes. Don’t ask about the other four.

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LAS VEGAS — Sin City. A monument to opulence. A garish adult Disneyland where visitors can stroll downtown with an open 24 oz. Coors Light, slot machines outnumber trees and the upper tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy are just an MGM Platinum membership away.  

And if you flew 2,000 miles there to cheer on No. 14 Indiana men’s basketball, I really hope you didn’t bet with your heart.  

Indiana suffered its second loss of the season: an 89-75 defeat to the No. 10 University of Arizona. The Hoosiers surrendered a 17-0 run early in the first half, after which they never trailed by fewer than three points.  

I imagine Indiana fans will come up with thousands of reasons why Indiana got screwed out of a win, but none of them matter as much as those 17 unanswered points. In four brutal minutes, Indiana couldn’t stop a basketball from rolling uphill, and they certainly couldn’t put that ball through a hoop.  

Not graduate student forwards Race Thompson and Miller Kopp’s 3-point shooting explosion, not sophomore guard Tamar Bates continued emergence as a reliable scorer, not even senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis’ remarkable defensive effort could put the Hoosiers in a position to win. 

To be fair, not every team could have taken advantage of those four minutes like Arizona did. The Wildcats present a rare combination of massive forwards and pinpoint shooters. They bully defenders down low while forcing them to sprint around the perimeter.  

I imagine trying to stop them is like sprinting on a treadmill; it absolutely sucks and you don’t really end up getting anywhere.  

Take, for example, the combination of Arizona senior center Oumar Ballo and junior guard Kerr Kriisa. 

Ballo is seven feet tall and weighs 260 pounds. I’m pretty sure my arms and legs would fall off if Ballo sternly looked in my general direction, so it strikes me as a small miracle that Jackson-Davis and the Hoosiers held him to 15 points.  

But with Ballo limited, Arizona did basically whatever it wanted outside the paint. Kriisa logged 14 points as the Wildcats shot 49.2% from the floor and 40% from 3-point range, often draining shots just when it appeared the Hoosiers had stolen the momentum.  

Sometimes, it wasn’t even an Arizona basket that reclaimed the energy. I’m sure the first thing Indiana fans will mention when discussing this game is the uncalled goaltend by Ballo midway through the second half.  

Maybe it’s just the whole den of vice and sin thing, but it really felt like the MGM Grand Garden Arena could have broken out into a sweaty, drunken riot after the missed goaltend. The traveling Indiana crowd was decidedly older than Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall’s usual attendees, but evidently having a mortgage and a 401(k) doesn’t compromise your ability to jeer referees. 

Even Indiana head coach Mike Woodson, who typically sports a poker face that could get him a long way on the Bellagio casino floor, showed something resembling anger at various points throughout the evening. 

But that’s often how it goes, be it in the Garden Arena or in one of the many reputable establishments down the road. Losses come with heartbreak, frustration, even rage toward the people and things you believe have wronged you.  

Tonight on the Las Vegas Strip, you’ll find a meandering stream of downtrodden Hoosiers in candy stripes and bad moods. They sank their time, money and emotions into the only pastime that could make them feel alive, and in the end they got burned.  

Despite all logic, you will find them doing the exact same thing in very little time, starving hyenas forever hunting a high they may never catch. 

We are still talking about basketball, right?   

Follow reporters Evan Gerike (@EvanGerike) and Emma Pawlitz (@emmapawlitz) and columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season.
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