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He spent Friday battling flulike symptoms, and well, he just doesn’t look like a basketball player.\nBut there Drew Neitzel was in the second half, crossing up IU’s senior guard Errek Suhr and nailing a tough jumper from just right of the free-throw line. And there he was, nailing 3 after 3, seemingly dissolving IU’s halftime lead to nothing in an instant. (Raymar Morgan helped out with that, too.)\nAnd here the Hoosiers were again – squandering yet another opportunity to pick up a road win. They led by 10 at half. They held a team that has been so dominant at home – Michigan State is now 18-1 on the season – to a mere 20 points in the first half. They forced the Spartans into 14 first-half turnovers. It seemed, finally – finally! – IU was poised to knock off a team of significance on the road. \nBut the second half came, and, boom, IU and Michigan State switched roles. It was now the Hoosiers running aloof and turning the ball over. Freshman guard Joey Shaw dribbled a ball off his foot and kicked it out of bounds. Fellow freshman guard Armon Bassett – though scoring a career-high 25 points – threw the ball away on occasion.\nDoes Earl Calloway make a difference in this game? I think we might be starting to find out how important he is to this team. Even though Bassett is at times an exceptional freshman, he’s a scorer more than a true point guard. In the second half, coach Kelvin Sampson seemed to think as much, as he delineated Suhr to the point-guard role for a portion of the half.\nCalloway is this team’s leader. Sampson might not have been too keen on his style of play early on this season, but the senior point guard has made a believer out of his coach. When IU started falling apart in the second half, Calloway could have provided a nice spark and perhaps saved the Hoosiers from another road loss. But, alas, he was relegated to the bench, barking orders all game to his teammates as he continued to rest his shoulder injury. But with the way this team has played on the road, it might not have even mattered.\nWe all know the deal now. With Saturday night’s 66-58 loss to the Spartans, the Hoosiers lost sole possession of third place in the Big Ten, ceding the spot to Illinois. IU is now tied with Michigan State and Iowa for fourth in the conference. \nThe Illini only have one game left in the Big Ten season. If IU can snatch a road win – yes, folks, a road win – at Northwestern on Wednesday, something six other Big Ten teams have done this year, and win its last game of the season Saturday, they’ll grab sole possession of third place back. That is, if Illinois loses its last game of the year at Iowa and Michigan State loses at Wisconsin on Saturday. Oh, and Iowa would have to lose at Penn State. Phew, that was a lot to swallow there.\nBut hey, do you think IU can get any Big Ten or NCAA tourney games inside Assembly Hall this postseason?
So, as we may or may not already know, the Hoosiers haven’t won inside Michigan State’s Breslin Center since 1991– Feb. 28, 1991 to be exact. And if we want to get even more exact, we could break it down further. That’s 192 months. It’s also 5,838 days. It’s, well, it’s a long time.\nI bring this up not to tear down the Hoosiers, opponents certainly have similar streaks inside Assembly Hall. \nI do bring it up, however, for some perspective. Remember IU’s 73-51 trouncing of the Spartans at home back on Jan. 7?\nYou should have heard Tom Izzo after that game. He heaved negative comment after negative comment about his team as each new question was asked of him by the group of reporters seated inside Assembly Hall’s press room.\nI thought Michigan State was kaput, done, finished. But it was early in the Big Ten season. Injured players Maurice Joseph and Raymar Morgan had just begun to start playing again right around that time. They’ve gone 7-4 since that match up in early January.\nIt’s not the most impressive record, but for a team that seemed so down and out early on, it’s impressive. It is the Big Ten, after all. We all know road losses don’t come easy. And, in that same stretch, IU’s gone an almost equivalent 8-4. \nSo, where IU once seemed like the far superior squad on the hardwood, a team poised to knock out that losing streak at the Breslin Center this season, we’ve now moved to a point of the year where Michigan State appears to be every bit as good as the Hoosiers and similar on many fronts.\nBoth teams have knocked off now-No. 1 Wisconsin on their home courts. Both teams have been rather impressive in some of their home Big Ten wins, winning by double-digits on more than a few occasions. IU and Michigan State also rule at home. Michigan State is 17-1, while IU is 14-0.\nEarly in the Big Ten season, there were a good number of equally talented squads all scratching at that third place spot behind Ohio State and Wisconsin in the conference standings. But with each win, IU seemed to firmly entrench itself in that spot, gaining a sizeable advantage in the loss column against the likes of Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, Michigan and Purdue. But the Hoosiers have fallen back to that pack.\nWith an IU loss Saturday and an Illinois win against Penn State on the road, the Illini will be tied for third with IU. \nOn Tuesday, IU coach Kelvin Sampson had this to say: “This team has to learn how to compete when on the road. We compete, but you either win or lose the game. We have to continue to work at it. We have two more road games this season, and we have to put our heart and soul into winning those games.” \nHeart and soul will help, sure. But when you’re going after breaking a 16-year long streak, a little luck could help too.
We all know the Hoosiers have ruled home court this year.\nWith Wednesday night’s win against Minnesota, IU ran its record to 14-0 at home this season with only one game left against lowly Penn State.\nYou know who else has ruled home court this year? The Michigan State Spartans. They’re 17-1 on the year, with the only blemish on their record coming in a loss against the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Hoosiers haven’t won in East Lansing, Mich., since 1991, not to mention the Spartans are coming off two impressive home wins. Last time out they took down No. 1 Wisconsin and before that they spanked Iowa 81-49.\nThe last few games I’ve predicted, I’ve picked against the long streak.\nBut, with the way the Hoosiers have played on the road this season, this is one streak I’m not going to pick against.
It's taken nearly 22 years, but last Tuesday something I never thought possible came true: I was rewarded for picking a nose. If that's not enough, I've also been honored for clipping nails, slapping grown men in the face and doing the wave. Suffice it to say, it's been a pretty good week. And you don't have to be as handsome or famous as me to get away with these things without fear of ridicule or an attack. With Nintendo's latest installment of the WarioWare franchise, "Smooth Moves," you too can do all of these things and more. \nThe first Wario release for the Wii lives up to the hype. Not only do players get to shave sheep, put in dentures and shake bugs off of bananas, it contains more than 200 other microgames (short tasks lasting about three seconds) spread across 17 levels and 19 forms (ways to hold the Wiimote). The forms use funny names such as Big Cheese and Mohawk and open up revolutionary new ways to play the Wii. In one game, a player holds the Wiimote like a champagne bottle and must shake it up and pull his thumb off in order to spray it everywhere. In another, the player puts the Wiimote in front of his face like an elephant's trunk and collects apples from trees. The majority of the microgames are easy enough that even the most novice of players will achieve success in no time at all, but they also increase in difficulty to challenge more experienced players. Succeeding in the microgames is crucial, because each completed level opens the path to more games, levels and options. \nAfter getting halfway through the single-player mode, a multi-player option is unlocked that adds much more depth and excitement. Most of the multi-player levels consist of playing the microgames against others in sudden-death- style matches, but there are other games as well, such as a realistic darts game that may be the successor to WiiSports' bowling game in terms of addictiveness and a cooperative running game where two players must work together to jump over potholes.\nOverall, this is a very fun game that is enjoyed best when other people are around to see how ridiculous you look holding a Wiimote on your head or playing tug-of-war against a television screen. The graphics leave a lot to be desired, but it's the game play that is the most important aspect of "Smooth Moves." While the play is usually very accurate, some of the forms are better in theory than practice, and some of the games will undoubtedly have you shouting at the screen, swearing you performed the moves correctly. However, this game is a lot of fun and it should hold me over until they figure out a way to give me a prize for binge-eating and chain-smoking.
Um, if I could just write in this space, “IU will beat Minnesota,” that would be lovely. But see, I have more space to fill than that. So, you want some reasons as to why this one shouldn’t be too tough for the Hoosiers?\nFirst and foremost, Minnesota sports the lowest overall winning percentage of any squad in the Big Ten. The Golden Gophers are a lowly 9-18 on the season. They’ve also only won three Big Ten games all year, one each against Penn State, Northwestern and Purdue. This team just isn’t very good.\nAll right, that’s about all I have on that front. I think it is pretty obvious to everyone that IU should win this game. So get your coach Sampson shirts on and start your Adam Ahlfeld chants early and often.
It’s starting again. \nThat sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach – the one you just can’t bear to feel again.\nYes, your Hoosiers, you think they’re floundering. The ghost of Hoosier past has fully awakened. \nBut friends, there’s really no reason for the crazy amount of negativity emanating for your noggins – at least I don’t think so.\nAs a fan, it’s easy to get caught up on the “here and now” with a team. IU’s “here and now” is two straight losses. \nSo, some are starting to talk about the National Invitation Tournament. Some are saying Kelvin Sampson isn’t quite the coach everyone thought he was.\nCome on, people. Two straight losses – the first time all season the Hoosiers have lost consecutive games – and that’s it, they’re done?\nI know it’s extremely disheartening to see IU throw away victories on the road this season. They’ve been close many times, but just can’t seem to figure out how to close out games on the road. Having to see that ineptitude two straight games isn’t easy. \nI predicted IU would lose at Purdue and Michigan – two teams its owned the last few years. Especially the Wolverines, a squad the Hoosiers beat 10 consecutive times before Saturday’s loss. They couldn’t keep that streak going forever. \nNow, because the Hoosiers have come close so many times on the road this year, I really do think they’ll win at least one of their two remaining road games, either at Northwestern or Michigan State.\nSo, let’s do some math here and put this thing in perspective. \nIU has four games left in the regular season – two at home, two on the road. \nGoing 4-0 is possible, but not probable. Going 3-1 is likely. Going 2-2 would be a bit of a disappointment, but still definitely within the realm of possibly. Finishing 2-2 is the worst I see it doing, with the two remaining home games coming against Big Ten basement dwellers Penn State and Minnesota.\nSo, let’s go with IU finishing out the season 3-1. If Sampson and crew do that, they’ll finish the year 20-9 – IU’s first year of achieving 20 wins during the regular season since 1999-2000 – Bob Knight’s last year at the helm. \nThat would mean the Hoosiers are quite possibly on the verge of their best regular season in seven years.\nAnd, if they only finish 2-2, they’ll have 19 wins in the regular season for the first time in six seasons.\nAnd setting aside the prognostications for a second, guard Earl Calloway is still up in the air for Wednesday’s tilt with Minnesota due to his mild separated shoulder. I think to seal up the season at 3-1, he’s going to need to get back on the court and contribute like he’s done all Big Ten season.\nNow, if IU loses both road games and one at home, that will most certainly be a big cause for concern. \nBut, for now, everyone try and keep your pants on. OK?
Well, I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer for all of you out there, but I'm going with another IU loss on Saturday against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich.\nHey, I was right about Purdue, wasn't I?\nHere's the way I see it: the Hoosiers have not lost two games in a row all season. And I think that at some point it's going to happen. That time is now. Also, including the loss to Purdue, I think the Hoosiers are going to split their last four road games (the aforementioned Boilermakers, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern). So, when Michigan State and Northwestern roll around, expect me to pick an IU victory.\nCertainly, this isn't the most sporty way to go about a prediction. So, if you're looking for that, Michigan -- like Illinois -- has a lot of length all over the court. And IU doesn't match up well with teams of length.\nSo there, happy now?
Carl Landry and David Teague came to play. Let me put this one in perspective for you, with the aid of some numbers.\nBack in Bloomington on Jan. 10, the Boilermakers' star duo tallied 24 points between each other -- Landry netted 13, while Teague scored 11. IU crushed the Boilermakers at every turn that game, winning by a margin of 85-58.\nIn West Lafayette on Thursday night, Landry had 22 all by himself. And Teague? He threw in a career-high 32. \nPurdue coach Matt Painter was disgusted with his team's play after that game in Bloomington back in January.\n"They just flat kicked us," he said following his team's drubbing.\nWell, Thursday night in West Lafayette, it was the Boilermakers applying the kick to the Hoosiers, handing them their worst lost of the season, 81-68.\nIt seemed when Teague wasn't splashing trifectas from the outside -- he tallied six on the night -- Landry was dropping buckets over IU forward D.J. White's head. And when neither of those actions were going down, Purdue freshman Chris Kramer was sacrificing his body and taking charges. (That dude is a pest.)\nWant some more stats? \nLandry finished 8-of-11 from the floor. He also had 11 boards. Teague, though not quite as impressive as Landry, still finished about 60 percent shooting on the night, hitting 11-of-18 shots.\nAt half, it looked as if White might emerge as the star of Thursday night's game. That tends to happen when you drop 16 points in the first half and grab five boards. But, as has happened before this season after a hot first half, White went silent in the last 18 or so minutes of the game. \nHis second half numbers? Four points. Three rebounds. \nCredit the Boilermakers for D-ing up on D.J. \nAnd in IU's defense, the game's final score didn't quite do this game justice. It was competitively close most of the second half until the Hoosiers let it slip away in the final minutes.\nI predicted a loss for IU in Thursday's edition of the IDS. I feel like the Hoosiers were bound to lose this game. They rode a four-game win streak against the Boilermakers into Thursday night's game. Purdue hadn't beaten IU since Feb. 14, 2004. That makes 1,096 days Hoosiers Nation had the opportunity to rub it in against their Boilermaker counterparts. IU also owns this series as of late. Dating back to February of 2000, IU is a rather impressive 13-3 against the Boilermakers, especially considering Purdue leads the all-time series, 109-81. Something had to give eventually. Too many numbers outside the court were working against the Hoosiers on Thursday night.\nTwo numbers on the court were working against them as well.\nNo. 14 and No. 2 -- Carl Landry and David Teague.
Well, it's about that time. Time to predict a loss. I haven't done it this season, and tonight's tilt with Purdue will mark the 11th game this season I've written one of these Beyond the Arc previews.\nSure, Purdue isn't the most formidable opponent. But the Boilermakers gave Big Ten power Ohio State a tough game in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, and the Buckeyes barely escaped with a win in the closing minutes.\nPurdue also sports a 14-1 record at home this season, its lone loss coming to those aforementioned Buckeyes. Not to mention, the Boilermakers held the Michigan State Spartans to a measly 38 points inside Mackey Arena on Feb. 7 -- and only 12 points in the second half.\nYes, IU has owned the Boilermakers in recent games. And yes, this game is certainly winnable for the Hoosiers. \nHope for the best tonight, Hoosier Nation, but this guy thinks you should expect the worst.
You probably thought IU finally pulled out the win. \nAfter all, freshman guard Armon Bassett's circus shot fell, putting IU up by one with 44 seconds remaining in the game.\nBut after Bassett missed his free throw, you realized something. Fourty-four seconds is a long time. Enough time for Rich McBride of the Illini to get a wide-open 3-point attempt. He missed. Enough time for Illinois to run a play for McBride on its next possession with 19 seconds to go. IU junior forward D.J. White wouldn't let him get the ball, though. After swarming Illini forward Shaun Pruitt around the free-throw line for five seconds, the whistle blew. A turnover on Pruitt. IU ball. Victory, right? \nWell, not until IU's senior guard Earl Calloway was fouled and hit both of his free throws to put the Hoosiers up by four, making it a two-possession game for the Illini. It was out of reach. The final three seconds ticked off the clock. Finally, the game was over.\nIt was just one of those games. One where two well-coached, disciplined teams traded shot for shot in the second half until one of them finally got a few key stops. One where until the final buzzer sounded and the band began to play, did you really -- I mean really -- know the game was over? This time, in front of their home crowd and up against their newest rival, it played out in favor of the Hoosiers. \n"It seemed like we were fighting uphill a lot today," said coach Kelvin Sampson. "We had so many opportunities to maybe extend a four-point lead or a five-point lead, and Illinois kept answering."\nHe's right. \nThree times in the second half, IU extended its lead to four points in the midst of mini-run. But these Fighting Illini, in congruence with their namesake, kept fighting. They simply wouldn't let IU out of their grasp until the very end.\nAnd hey, did anyone else notice a different approach on offense Saturday for the Hoosiers? \nThis is a team averaging just higher than 20 3-point shot attempts a game for the entire season. Saturday, they took just nine, which tied for their lowest all season. Senior guard Rod Wilmont, who has taken more than 10 3-pointers himself four times this season, passed up 3-pointers all game, instead opting to drive to the bucket.\nAfter the game, Sampson said the Hoosiers emphasized getting to the free-throw line more and not looking to shoot 3-pointers so early in the shot clock during practice this week. He also said he didn't mind his team shooting threes, but that it's hard to be a good 3-point shooting team for two months.\nThat's been one of IU's glaring weaknesses through its first 23 games of the season -- getting to the free-throw line with any sort of consistency. All year, the opposing teams have simply owned the Hoosiers in trips to the charity stripe.\nLast month against the Illini in Champaign, Ill., the Hoosiers only went to the line six times, with all of those attempts coming in the first half. On Saturday, they took 23 free throws. That marks only the second time during the entire Big Ten season that the Hoosiers have taken more attempts at the line than their opponents. \nTeams are expecting the Hoosiers to gun from the outside. But with a shot fake and a drive, they can create higher percentage shots for themselves, and if they're lucky enough to draw a foul and score, they can still amass three points on their possession. \nMarch is just around the corner.\nIf the Hoosiers continue to vary their offensive attack and keep opponents guessing, it should serve them well come tournament time.
Ever since my freshman year, students have complained about the lack of unity inside Assembly Hall and the need for a student section. Valid point as any. But at the same time, it seemed as if most just made baseless assertions, backed up by zero action. No phone calls to people of authority. No e-mails. No meetings. No nothing.\nThat all changed this year.\nSeemingly led by the charge of graduate student Scott Manning, students are being increasingly proactive about the situation. I applaud everyone for that.\nI've racked my brain trying to come up with the perfect setup for a student section inside Assembly Hall, but there aren't any easy answers.\nManning proposed the idea of first-come, first-serve seating to the athletics department this fall. That would mean that if you show up early enough to a game, you'll always be able to sit behind the basket on the south side of the stadium. Those arriving later would sit in increasingly less prime seats, starting with sections M and L on the east side of the stadium all the way up to the balcony.\nPresumably, this idea would also serve the purpose of getting the most "die-hard" Hoosier fans down on the court, making Assembly Hall a much harder place to play for opposing teams.\nAnd perhaps first-come, first-serve seating's best benefit would be getting students inside the stadium much earlier than they've been getting there all season (save for the Wisconsin game).\nThis idea also keeps the current setup of Assembly Hall intact. The opposing team's fans, IU alumni and various other important people would remain down on the court, wrapping from the west, around to the north and back down on the east side of the stadium.\nSome students don't like that. \nThey feel that students create home court advantage better than anyone else in the stadium, and thus should be afforded the luxury of sitting right on top of the court.\nHey, I agree. \nBut not so fast, everyone. Assembly Hall, in its current state, isn't set up well for a good bulk of students to sit courtside. Those walls on either side of the court create a frustrating division between "good seats" and "pretty good seats." So while this idea might work in another stadium such as Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke -- one with a ton of seats right on top of the court that both alumni and students can split -- it wouldn't work so well in Assembly Hall.\nAnd where do those with courtside seats move? It probably would come at the expense of student seats in sections M and L, not to mention it might peeve off other alumni who also have to move farther back. \nSince the football program doesn't make as much money as most, basketball is the cash cow here at IU. Like it or not, alumni down on the court are sort of the priority as far as seating in the stadium goes. So I don't know if students getting some of those seats is even a foreseeable option.\nAnd don't forget, students are a lucky lot. Assembly Hall affords us more than 7,000 seats, tops in the Big Ten.\nEven if first-come, first-serve seating -- or some other unifying plan -- is implemented, plenty of students won't agree with the change. Maybe they don't like student seats being cut, or maybe they have class that gets out around game time on week nights and would always have to sit far away.\nEither way, no one is out to get the students. It's a delicate situation, one that the athletics department is looking into.\nIt's like one of those multiple-choice tests your professor likes to make more difficult than it should be: "Answers A, B, C and D are all viable, correct solutions. But among those four, one of them is the best answer." With any luck, the athletic department is working toward that.\nSo everyone, take a deep breath and relax. The wheels are in motion for something. Kelvin Sampson plans to weigh in on the subject after the season and said earlier this season that students down on the floor create an advantage.\nFor now, do as you've been doing. Propose white-outs, red-outs and Sampson-outs on Facebook. \nIt's worked. IU is in the midst of its longest home winning streak since the early 1990s. \nAnd at the end of the day, no matter how much smoke is blown about student seating, the Hoosiers' winning is all that matters, isn't it?
Have we all recovered from that whirlwind of a game Wednesday night? \nWell, if you haven't, hope that your Hoosiers have. Because the last time they came off a big victory, against Connecticut, they played their worst game of the season two days later at Illinois. So, will the same thing happen to this squad Saturday against Iowa? \nNah, I don't think so. Expect the Hoosiers to pull out a win in Iowa City. Sure, the Hawkeyes have been pretty good at home this season, going 3-1 in Big Ten play. Their lone loss was to Wisconsin. But hey, this IU team is good. And save for the Illinois game, the Hoosiers have played well on the road. Is that enough of a reason for you? Good, I'm glad you think so.\nOh, and if you didn't notice, I predicted IU to win 71-65 against Wisconsin. They won 71-66. I just wanted to let everybody know that. Did I just jinx myself here? I sure hope not.
Usually, when a new coach steps into a program his first year and achieves a considerable amount of success, there are at least some detractors.\nThese critics most often use the same line: "Well, sure Coach B is doing great, but he's doing it with all of Coach A's recruits. Let's see what he does with his own guys in a few years."\nFrom what I've garnered, nobody has said that line around Hoosier Nation this season with first-year coach Kelvin Sampson at the helm for IU.\nThere are myriad reasons for this. Below I've listed them. If you aren't already bored with this column, read on. I dare you.
Kelvin Sampson can explain it to you quite simply.\n"Teams are better at home than they are on the road," he said in a press conference the day before IU's home win against Michigan on Jan. 27. \nWhen pressed by the same reporter to expand on the topic, he scoffed at the notion. \n"I've only answered that one 50 times in the last five years," he said. "There's nothing more to it than that. Teams are better at home. It's been like that since dirt."\nOf course, there are plenty of reasons why teams are better at home -- the crowd, court familiarity and in the case of IU's 81-75 loss to Iowa on Saturday, Mr. Adam Haluska and the Hoosiers' lack of assertion on the boards. But, in the end, it can really be boiled down to Sampson's simplistic explanation.\nUsually, only the elite of the elite finish with a respectable road record.\nThis team certainly has proven it can compete on the road, no question about it. They haven't been blown out once all year. But, there's quite a difference between playing tough and competing on the road and actually winning the game. IU is 2-6 away from Assembly Hall this season. \nIt seems near impossible that IU could stun No. 2 Wisconsin on Wednesday, snapping the nation's longest winning streak at 17 games in the process, and yet falter against a pedestrian Iowa team Saturday. But there the Hoosiers were, floundering in the second half, as Haluska -- no matter how erratic he looked at times -- dropped in shot after shot. Credit Iowa, a team that's been coming around in recent games.\nBut such is life on the road. And such is life in the Big Ten conference. \nThe Hoosiers embarked on what I called the most crucial stretch of the season with games at Connecticut and Illinois and home bouts against Michigan and Wisconsin the last two weeks. IU went 3-1 during that stretch.\nThis next slot of games should prove equally difficult. The Hoosiers, instead of sitting comfortably in third place in the Big Ten, now find themselves fighting to stay afloat.\nSure, IU doesn't have to play Big Ten powers Wisconsin or Ohio State again, but four of its six remaining games this month are on the road. Iowa is now only one down in the loss column to the Hoosiers. Michigan, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State are looming close behind as well. \nWith the exception of the Hawkeyes, IU plays all those teams again this month. Three of those four are on the road.\nIt's gut check time for Sampson and his team. \nIf they can't figure out how to eek out a few wins on the road in the back half of their Big Ten journey, Sampson's debut season might not turn out as we've all been envisioning it.
Tremendous. That's the word Kelvin Sampson used to define Wednesday night's win. \nMemory. D.J. White said it's one he'll have for the rest of his life. \nClaustrophobic. Why, that's what A.J. Ratliff is, and how he felt as students rushed onto the court following IU's 71-66 victory against No. 2 Wisconsin inside Assembly Hall on Wednesday night.\nAnd speaking of Ratliff, if you're still wondering where that player you were promised has been, the one awarded "Mr. Basketball" in the state of Indiana since his senior season at North Central High School, look no further than Branch McCracken Court on Wednesday night. He played with authority, confidence and seemed to add elements to his game never witnessed before. He drove the lane with a newfound terror for buckets. He dished passes as if he was this team's point guard. And, in the decisive minutes of Wednesday night's game, he was the man -- seemingly hitting every shot he took the last 12 minutes of the half. Well, actually he did make every shot he took the last 12 minutes, all five of them, including two free throw shots to boot. All that with a cast on his left wrist, one that's limited just how and where he can play on the court. \nThe past few years, the Hoosier squad has run into a brick wall around this part of the Big Ten season. Conference play that started out so promising quickly turned sour. But this team, led by first-year coach Sampson, has busted through that brick wall with a confidence and swagger not seen around these parts in some time.\nSure, there's still plenty of time for this ride to derail. But, are there seriously any of you out there that think it will?\nIn his post-game press conference, Sampson credited the crowd as much as his team for the Hoosier victory. Ratliff said it hasn't been like this inside Assembly Hall since the Duke game early last season.\nNo arguments here.\nIn the decisive last minutes of the second half, the students seated in the front row of section M banged on the railing so hard paint chipped off it and fell down onto my arm, as I sat tucked against the wall on press row.\nAs students funneled over the wall on the east side of the stadium and down into the alumni court side seats below, a group of middle-aged men were -- at first -- bombarded. Then, apparently swept up by the moment and the stadium's giddiness, they helped the throng of kids as each hopped over the railing.\nFor one night inside Assembly Hall, the apparent rift, however manufactured it may be between the alumni and students was non-existent. And hey, on nights such as Wednesday, who needs a student section?\nThe entire crowd was one unit basking in the warmth of a Hoosier victory. \nAnd everything, as coach Sampson would say, was "tremendous"
Do any of you out there need some comforting before Wisconsin rumbles into town Wednesday night? You know, that Badger squad that currently sits atop the Big Ten with a perfect 7-0 record, 21-1 overall mark and is ranked No. 2 in the country?\nWell, this is me, here for you.\nConsider this: \nIU has not lost at home this year. In fact, the Hoosiers are currently in the midst of their longest home winning streak in quite some time. With their victory against the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday, IU has now rattled off 13 straight wins at home, dating back to last season. Not since IU went on a 56-game run inside Assembly Hall from February 1991 to January 1995 has a winning streak reached this long. I wouldn't say 13 games is anything to clap your hands and say "yeah" about, but, hey, it's something ... right?\nHere's another number to get you in the mood. And by mood I mean, well, I don't really know what I mean by that. Anyway, the Hoosiers are a perfect 14-0 this season in games where they score 70 or more points. IU has scored more than 70 points in 10 of its 11 home games this season. Are you starting to feel good about this one yet?\nWell, how about this: The Badgers are only averaging a touch better than 61 points a game on the road in the Big Ten this season. Also, if you haven't noticed, the Hoosiers have been straight up clowning Big Ten teams at home. IU's average margin of victory in home Big Ten games is nearly 18 points a game.\nNeed some more comforting? IU is 1-0 against teams sporting celebrity look-alikes on their rosters. You see, Western Illinois has this player Troy Okeson. If Bill Walton and Dirk Nowitzki somehow had a baby, he would be their son. IU beat Western Illinois back in December. If you've ever watched a Wisconsin game in the last couple years, you'll surely notice Badger guard Kammron Taylor is comedian Chris Rock. It's an uncanny resemblance. It's also a resemblance brought up ad nauseam by any commentator ever calling a Badger game. So, here's me falling prey to that. Sorry.\nWith all these numbers in their favor, there is no way the Hoosiers can lose Wednesday night. Well, OK, yes there is. But hey, don't you feel better about the game already? \nOne last note: You can make a difference. Yes you, IU student! You see, there's one of these "white outs" proposed as a Facebook event for Wednesday night's game. As of late Sunday afternoon, 526 guests are confirmed for it. Now, this is by no means an official "white out." Perhaps the athletics department will make an official announcement about one if the movement gains enough steam today or Tuesday.\nBut remember kids, IU was 0-2 in games where Assembly Hall was clad in white tees last season.\nSo, perhaps a "red out" would be a better idea?
Usually in this column space, I try to write some breathy prose about the men's basketball team. You know, relating each game to the big picture of the season and telling you what it all means, man.\nLet's ditch that for a day.\nHere are your mid-season awards and accolades 66 percent of the way through the regular season. Whoops.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Not to get all predictably cliche on you here, but Assembly Hall -- the one in Champaign, Ill. -- is quite literally a gladiator's ring.\nThere's one entrance onto the court. The stands wrap around in an oval. There are no balconies. \nAs the Illini and Bruce Weber entered the court shortly before tipoff, there were cheers from the orange-clad faithful. Call it a hero's welcome, if you will.\nShortly afterward, the IU Hoosiers strutted out to jeers. And jeers. And more jeers. IU coach Kelvin Sampson, who seemed to take his sweet time before making his way onto the court, got the loudest boos of all. The Enemy had finally arrived.\nBut here were the Hoosiers, undaunted as they've been on the road all season, hitting shots early in the contest and taking the Orange Krush out of the game from the start. But then, something happened. Whether it was Illini coach Bruce Weber's decision to start double-teaming D.J. White, or IU's normally hot 3-point shooters going cold, or just a bad game (which happens to even the best of teams now and then), the Hoosiers started a slow crawl backward.\nHard to say exactly where it all unraveled. But, I do know this: The Illini crowd got to this team. They got to Sampson. For the first time all year, the crowd seriously rattled IU. They were timid. No one stepped up in crunch time. The Hoosiers scored 43 points the entire game. Let me remind you, IU had 41 points at halftime against Western Illinois earlier in the season.\nOnce things started to really go south in the second half, there was a rampant pulsation of noise from the stands. It was an all-out onslaught on a man who the fans know isn't really to blame for the whole Eric Gordon debacle -- but hey, they have to let loose anger on someone, and who better than him?\nHe's the face of a program that snatched a game-breaker, Mr. Eric Gordon, from their grips. He's the guy they'll surely hate for years to come.\nThis Illini team is not very good. They still have a case to make if they want to get into the NCAA tournament. Their win Tuesday night against a ranked opponent should help their cause. Illinois may not even finish over .500 in the conference this season.\nTheir win Tuesday night might be one of the few bright spots of the season. In their minds, there's at least something to savor from this season -- a win over the Enemy. They'll say, "At least we beat that cheater Sampson this year."\nExpect the Hoosiers to rebound. I said before the game this would be their toughest road tilt of the year and a difficult place for them to eke out a victory.\nBut this loss was frighteningly reminiscent of the ghost of Hoosiers past: the teams under former coach Mike Davis that self-destructed on the road.\nSampson gets animated on the sidelines. But Tuesday night, under the glare of about 16,000 souls all in unison against him, he seemed to ramp it up a notch. He constantly interlocked his fingers behind his head after he watched frustrating play after frustrating play from his squad. He stomped on the floor repeatedly. I can only imagine what he told his team in the locker room after the game.\nSampson will get another shot at this Illini team Feb. 10 inside his own Assembly Hall. A win is altogether possible.\nBut for one Tuesday night in late January, he and his team entered the gladiator's ring and were slain.
It's Friday night, a few ticks past midnight at Kilroy's Sports Bar. Girls are huddled together in line outside, shivering without coats as they wait for the patrons in front of them to get their IDs checked, pay cover and enter the establishment.\nInside, it's still relatively quiet. In the rather spacious lower level, some sit in booths, while others are posted up at the main bar, glancing at the large array of flatscreen TVs now and then, as they chat with old, or perhaps, new friends.\nCall it the calm before the storm.\nBecause within the hour, the place will swell. It will be packed, crowded and alive. It will be full of customers entertaining themselves in a seemingly endless string of activities. Some will be dancing upstairs, some will be playing pool near the back of the first floor, some, no matter how cold it is, will be drinking and smoking cigarettes on the bar's second-floor patio. Others will be downstairs, dodging in and out of the throngs of people, gulping drinks with friends as the night becomes increasingly blurry in their minds.\nBehind the hustle and bustle of this weekend crowd at Sports, stands the Prall sisters, managers Maggie and Liza.\nThink of them as the conductors of a large orchestra, simultaneously overseeing 850 patrons of their 14,000-square-foot, two-story establishment and heading a staff that can reach nearly 80 employees on the busiest of nights.\nAfter working in different capacities under the Kilroy's umbrella, Maggie and Liza came to Sports as managers in early 2004 and set out to consistently fill the spacious bar by making it a spot where everyone in town felt welcome. With this school year's spike in popularity, their goals seem to be coming to fruition.\n"When we came back to this store to run it together, we both sat down and said 'It's 14,000 square feet-- how are we going to fill this place consistently?'" Maggie said. "We had to really broaden our horizons and open the doors and please a lot bigger demographic than anybody else in town."\nOne of their first tasks was the placement of the DJ. Live music has been a staple of Sports since the mid-90s, but Maggie and Liza decided its popularity had dwindled a bit. The DJ had been downstairs and the live music on the top level prior to their arrival, but they made the decision to put the DJ on the second floor.\n"When we first got together and we needed a goal, the only thing that was very successful was the DJ," said Maggie. "If we got the people upstairs, then all we had to do was fill the downstairs, which is a lot easier to do because it's right inside the doors."\nAfter the upstairs was remodeled and the DJ was in place, their attention moved to the downstairs, which they remodeled this past summer with such elements as flatscreen TVs, a long bar on the south end of the first level and new paint on the walls, switching from green -- a Kilroy's staple since 1971 -- to brick red.\nNext, the sisters decided to restructure what they offered on select nights. Two weeks before first semester began, they decided to serve all drinks half-price on Wednesdays.\n"We fixed our Wednesdays overnight, which, for us, was a high-five," Maggie said. "Obviously, we make very little to no money on Wednesdays ... but our employees make good money and the customers are having the time of their lives and that makes them want to come back on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and any other Sunday that they might come out."\nSenior Jason Bowman, a frequent Sports patron, said the Wednesday night special that Sports offered early last semester kept him coming back all year.\n"I only went to Sports once last year," said Bowman. "'Half-price Wednesdays' is what brought me and my friends to Sports. It's always a good time, so we keep going back." Liza said the notion of a half-off night started out as a joke. But it eventually stuck and Maggie, who was wary of such a drastic change at first, was eventually convinced.\n"I had worked Wednesdays and they were dismal," Liza said. "It's tough to see this huge bar when we're slow. It's cry-yourself-to-sleep, it's painful."\nAnother institutional change made as first semester got underway was to feature dueling pianos on Thursday nights, something they'd been trying to pull off since last spring.\nIn addition to the new look, the nightly specials and the restructured entertainment lineup, Liza said they strive for each room to have a different atmosphere to appeal to the bar's diverse clientele. From the casual pool room in the back of the first floor, to the dance club vibe upstairs, there's a little bit of everything inside the Walnut Street establishment.\n"I think we're the most diverse bar in town," Liza said. "Every age, every color, every everything. You go upstairs, you go downstairs, anywhere you're at in the place it's a melting pot." \nAlthough Sports might be the "it" spot of the moment, Liza said that can change in an instant, as has happened to the bar in years past.\n"Because we were so hot for so long, some people were just sick of it," she said. "Same thing with (Kilroy's on) Kirkwood -- they're not necessarily doing anything different this semester, but people were there six nights a week last semester or last year, and now the whole thing kind of shifts, which we've experienced over the years." \nFor now, in the cyclical-patron cycle that is the Bloomington bar scene, Sports seems to have a firm hold on the market.
Did you get that feeling? \nYou know, the one where you felt that at some point, the Huskies were going to fully seize their hyper-athleticism, breakthrough and take over the game for good? \nWell, a run here and a run there, and they were back in the game, even taking the lead on several occasions. \nBut as IU coach Kelvin Sampson said after his team's 77-73 victory against Connecticut, his team bent, but it did not break. \nIn the Kentucky, Duke, Butler and Ohio State games, his team broke. The final minutes were ridden with stalls, as IU found itself unable to string points together for a victory. Against Penn State and Connecticut, the Hoosiers seized up the strength and courage to muster out a win.\nThis is a team -- and more specifically a coach -- getting the most out of what it has. Take junior college transfer Mike White as an example. Heading into Saturday's contest, he'd only averaged eight minutes a game. He never started. Against the Huskies he did just that and played 32 minutes.\nWhite doesn't have much offensive prowess. Sampson, in his post-game press conference, said White would never be a "stat-sheet stuffer."\nBut he came up with some huge defensive plays. Not known for his free-throw shooting, he hit two key ones to tie up the game at 66 with 2:41 left. If you remember, he was 2-of-7 from the free-throw line against Duke. The Hoosiers lost that game by three.\nSaturday, he did what was asked of him by Sampson. That's all he needed to do. And he did it to near perfection.\nAgainst Kentucky, Rod Wilmont failed to even attempt a 3-point shot late in the game when the opportunity presented itself. Saturday, he took the shot. He nailed a deep three from well beyond the left wing. It was coldblooded. It put the Hoosiers up one. Shortly after, Connecticut's Stanley Robinson, who had terrorized IU all game, connected and IU found itself down one. \nNo worries. Here came Wilmont once again, driving down the lane (remember he's a shooter), hitting a jumper to put the Hoosiers up once again. It was a lead they'd never relinquish. \nIt seems that where once the Hoosiers faltered, they're now triumphing.\nThis is a credit to Sampson. He's proven to be an excellent game manager and has instilled confidence within this team.\nThis is essentially a very similar squad to last year's. IU has one talented big man and a bevy of 3-point shooters. But they play harder. They play smarter. They're all a year older. Last year's team doesn't win this game. \nThe Hoosiers have seemingly undergone a Beatles-esque transformation since November. They were an unkempt group of Liverpoolians back then, rampant with sloppy, turnover-ridden play, unsure of their identities or direction.\nNow, just as the fab four did, they've completely transformed themselves in a relatively short time. The Hoosiers now don suits and ties, complete with mop tops, fully aware of who they are and where they're headed. \nJust how far can this team go? Hard to say.\nBut for now, the Hoosiers are rising to the challenge.\nExpect this entertaining show to continue all the way into March.