End of an era for IU

End of an era for IU

Hoosiers come up short against Gonzaga, 90-80, in Davis’ final game as coach

by Doug Wilson, H-T Sports Writer

March 19, 2006

Gonzaga’s J.P Batista shoots over Indiana’s Marco Killingsworth during the first first half of Saturday’s NCAA Tournament second-round game in Salt Lake City. Batista had 20 points and nine rebounds as the Bulldogs beat Indiana, 90-80. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Mar. 19, 2006 Bloomington Herald-Times

SALT LAKE CITY – Mike Davis placed his head face-down on the table in front of him after Robert Vaden and Marshall Strickland spoke at the post-game press conference Saturday night.

Davis had just coached his last game at Indiana, with the underdog Hoosiers battling back from a 15-point deficit against Gonzaga, but ultimately falling 90-80 in a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament.

After six years at IU, Davis listened as his players shared their feelings about him.

“My father passed away this summer, and he’s like a father to me,” Vaden said. “I love him with all my heart and I’m sure he loves me, too. We’ve just got to move on. It’s all we can do.”

“I’ve been with coach four years and he’s helped me grow up,” said Strickland, with his voice cracking as he finished. “I came here, I’m fresh out of high school, he tested me and brought great things in me.”

An obviously emotional Davis said he couldn’t fully explain his feelings after coaching his last game and hearing his players talk about him, but he was proud of his team.

“I think every coach, whether or not they’re going to be there next year, anytime they have a group of guys they really love and appreciate, I feel more sadness for them than anyone because they fought hard,” Davis said. “They really fought hard over the last month. I’m proud of them.”

Davis ended his six-year tenure as head coach at IU with a 115-79 record, including 55-41 in Big Ten play and 7-4 in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga (29-3) advanced to the Sweet 16, where the Bulldogs will play UCLA in Oakland, Calif., Thursday.

The Hoosiers (19-12) held Adam Morrison, the nation’s leading scorer to 14 points, his second-lowest total of the season. But Morrison’s supporting cast couldn’t be stopped as six Bulldogs scored in double figures, led by center J.P. Batista’s 20 points.

Vaden led IU with 20 points after a scoreless first half. Strickland scored 18 in his final game as a Hoosier.

After trailing 70-55 with seven minutes left, IU hit four straight 3-pointers to cut their deficit to five with 3:29 remaining. But the Hoosiers couldn’t get the stops they needed on defense after that and Gonzaga pulled away for a 90-80 victory.

“I tip my hat to Indiana, they just kept coming and coming and coming at us,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We had to use everything we had in the tank.

“I feel bad for Mike Davis. He’s a heck of a good person and a darn good coach. They were very difficult to guard and prepare for. It’s a great win for the Zags.”

Gonzaga forward Sean Mallon tied his season-high with 15 points and tied his career-high with 10 rebounds. He said that at 6-foot-10, he had an advantage over the shorter Hoosiers who guarded him.

Indiana’s Errek Suhr (left) and Maro Killingsworth watch the final seconds of Saturday’s 90-80 loss to Gonzaga. Chris Howell | Hoosier Times
From the March 19, 2006 Bloomington Herald-Times

“All year people been talking like it’s all the Adam Morrison Show, but we’ve got some other players who can really make plays and they all did tonight,” Few said.

The difference in the game was free throws. Gonzaga shot 41 of them and hit 32. IU shot just six free throws and hit two.

Few said the reason for that was IU shooting 36 3-pointers, while Gonzaga was throwing the ball in to Batista or driving it to the basket.

“Style of play, plain and simple,” Few said.

IU center Marco Killingsworth had 13 points in his final game, but played just seven minutes in the second half because he picked up his third and fourth fouls early in the half on a play in which he pushed Batista and then was called for a technical foul for yelling at a referee.