UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The severity was unknown. The impact was clear.
After Wednesday’s 78-75 buzzer-beating win over Penn State, Tom Crean didn’t have an immediate update on OG Anunoby’s injured right knee. But the Indiana coach was clearly shaken by what had happened to his sophomore forward just prior to halftime, when Anunoby fell to the court grabbing his knee in agony.
Crean choked up on the court while speaking with Big Ten Network’s Stephen Bardo, walking through the range of emotions he was experiencing after a last-second win that also featured the loss of one of his most important players.
“We almost gave the game away,” Crean told BTN. “As a coach, I’m not very happy about that, but as the leader of these guys, I’m excited about the way they played considering everything we went through in this game. There were a lot of tears in that locker room (at halftime) because nobody knew what was going on with one of their fallen brothers. I had to leave a guy that was crying. That wasn’t easy. But we found a way to win the game, so I’m proud of them for that.”
Crean was also seen trying to console Anunoby after he was helped off the floor at halftime by teammate Juwan Morgan and strength and conditioning coach Lyonel Anderson.
It was all part of a somewhat chaotic halftime scene that also saw Crean exchange words with a Penn State assistant coach.
Nearly every Indiana player and staffer ran toward Anunoby on the baseline after the halftime buzzer sounded. At the same time, Penn State’s team jogged and walked around Anunoby on the way to its locker room. But to get to Anunoby, the Hoosiers had to travel in the opposite direction of the visitors locker room.
“We were going down to check on our player,” Crean said. “… I’m sure (Penn State) didn’t know why we were going down that way, and in defense of (the Penn State staffer), he didn’t know we had a player injured. … it was handled. we moved right on. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know we had a player laying under there in a heap under the rim that we were going down to check on. That’s why our players were running down there.”
Inside the locker room, while they, too, wondered about the status of their teammate, IU’s players recognized the need to make up for his absence. Anunoby went 3-for-7 from the field for six points, three rebounds, an assist and one block in 15 minutes.
“We just knew we had to all step up as a collective group,” Crean said. “When one of our guys go down, we just all have to step up even more. It was hard for us to see him go down like that, but we knew we had to pick it up in the second half.”