IU brushes aside Cards

Here’s our game story from Indiana’s 71-57 win against Ball State Saturday.

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Hoosiers do just enough against Ball State in final tune-up for Big Ten season

by Chris Korman
331-4353 | [email protected]
December 31, 2006

BLOOMINGTON — So, that’s out of the way.

Saturday night, before a subdued crowd, the Indiana basketball team beat Ball State 71-57 in a game that may have redefined the word sluggish.

Tuesday night Indiana will play Ohio State to open the Big Ten men’s basketball season. It can’t come fast enough.

“I think everybody in the country is ready for conference play,” Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game.

True.

Sampson’s demeanor was different after the game. His answers were more direct, less likely to meander into joking.

It’s that time of year. Indiana will have to prove itself every game.

Playing Ball State was, like the two games before, an exercise in only having to do enough for the Hoosiers. All they had to do was play the way they’ve been playing all year and that would be plenty.

It was. Indiana’s defense made it seem like the Cardinals were trying to shoot the basketball into a golf hole. Ball State hasn’t been good all year, averaging 38 percent shooting per game, but Saturday it scored mostly by using quickness to get to loose balls.

Without 6-foot-10 center Micah Rollin, who sat with an injured ankle, Ball State started no player over 6-5. It also had little depth, getting just one point off the bench.

“Ball State played small,” Sampson said. “The hardest thing to guard in basketball is penetration. They didn’t start a traditional lineup and it took us a while to get it figured out.”

The Cardinals languished without a point for two extended spans and Indiana was able to do just enough during that time to saunter into the lead.

A fast break brought Ball State to a 22-22 tie with 6:05 left in the first half. It didn’t score again until a minute into the second half. During that span Indiana took a 36-24 lead.

The Cardinals again stalled, this time with 28 points and for six minutes.

D.J. White led Indiana with 16 points. He was able to find position low after Indiana’s two point guards, Earl Calloway and Armon Bassett, dispatched with Ball State’s 2-3 pressure zone. Their game management left the Hoosiers taking open 3-pointers and creating room for the drive.

White capitalized later in the game — 12 of his points came in the second half — after Ball State stopped collapsing and starting pressuring out more.

“They have a very steady point guard in Calloway who seems to make all the right decisions,” said Ball State coach Ronny Thompson.

Thompson also said Indiana was as tough as any team the Cardinals have played all season. They’ve lost to Kansas, Western Kentucky, Georgetown, Butler and Oklahoma State.

“You bring in a kid like Bassett off the bench,” he said. “You think you are going to have a let down. When you have a player like that who can play either guard position, who can work the pick and roll and knock down shots, this is a very good team.”

Indiana was out-rebounded for just the second time this season. But like the first time that happened — against Western Michigan — the culprit was lack of motivation and focus. Overmatched and on the road, Ball State fought all it could. The Hoosiers calmly held on and pulled ahead.

Early in the game it appeared the Hoosiers were lapsing into launching too many 3-pointers.

Sampson joked that he got his players to stay patient by threatening to choke them.

Apparently he forgot that one of Bob Knight’s most well-known transgressions was the choking of Neil Reed.

Whatever Sampson did it worked, and now his team can finally get on with the Big Ten schedule, starting with a game at Ohio State on Tuesday.

Sampson, who chose not to make his players available for questions after the game, is doing his best to stay mum on the game against the No. 6 Buckeyes. He deflected questions about the significance of the game.

That appears to be the tactic: shuck the hype and embrace the role of the hustling, unyielding underdog.

Starting Tuesday. Finally.