Early start to basketball season projects Hysteria

It started with the lights dimmed and images projected onto Branch McCracken Court.

It ended with Zach McRoberts’ three-quarter court heave.

In between, Hoosier Hysteria was a fast-paced, raucous celebration of Indiana University men’s and women’s basketball and an introduction to the latest editions of those teams.

The participants enjoyed it.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” IU sophomore guard Al Durham said. “The Hoosier Hysteria fans are always the best, and it’s just unbelievable and you can’t describe it.”

Added grad transfer Evan Fitzner: “It was an awesome event. I think everyone had a lot of fun. Hopefully we put on a good show for them. It was a lot of fun.”

The court projections were the newest wrinkle at the event, displaying everything from mountain peaks to flames to the national championship banners with highlights playing inside the 3-point line at each end simultaneously.

For the women’s team, whose introductions were highlighted by sophomore Bendu Yeaney riding in on one of the Bird scooters that are all the rage in Bloomington, the big moment was the raising of the 2018 WNIT championship banner. The occasion included the return of Tyra Buss, just a day before heading to Greece to begin her professional career, and Amanda Cahill, who is wrapping up her student teaching this semester before beginning her career.

As for the men, the biggest ovation was undoubtedly for freshman Romeo Langford, as the crowd noise all but drowned out the PA announcement of his name.

Second-year coach Archie Miller also received a rousing ovation, then briefly addressed the 13,000-plus in attendance.

“It never gets old,” he said. “Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall with all these people in here gets the blood boiling, so to speak.”

Miller also implored the fans for support as his team searched for the right chemistry.

“We need this home floor to be as dominant of a building to play in for our opponent as it can be, and we’re going to need to you every single night to be able to give us a chance,” Miller said. “We have one of the greatest places in all of college basketball to play, but when it’s really, really good, we don’t lose at home.

“We obviously have a long way to go, but it’s going to be a lot of fun. We have a really good balance of older guys that are coming down the home stretch and we have some new faces that obviously have bright futures. We have to put it together.”

Juwan Morgan and Brenna Wise put it together to win the 3-point shooting contest, outgunning the teams of Fitzner and Grace Withrow as well as Jaelynn Penn and Damezi Anderson in the finals.

Romeo Langford took the dunk contest, which was decided by the cheers of the fans rather than the usual judges. That, combined with the failure to get more than a perfunctory dunk down by some teammates, made for a predictable result.

“Homecourt advantage,” redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson said.

Langford’s winning effort was a 360 spin as the ball bounced off the backboard and then was tip-dunked home. That came on the heels of an entertaining preliminary effort where Langford performed a cartwheel, of sorts, and then ran and slammed home the ball after it bounced off the floor and unintentionally the rim.

Justin Smith likely had the best dunk of the night with a windmill slam after Devonte Green threw the ball off the side of the backboard along the baseline in the preliminary round.

There was little reason to take much from the 15-minute scrimmage that concluded the proceedings in terms of team play, but Durham, Thompson and freshman Jake Forrester shone individually in leading the Cream to a 29-25 win over Crimson.

Thompson scored nine points, Durham had seven and three assists and Forrester added six points for the victors, which also included Morgan.

The losing side saw Fitzner finish with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3, while Damezi Anderson added six points and Langford just two.

Fitzner was also 9-of-15 from 3 in the shooting contest, a consistent 60 percent average.

“I’ve been coming down here and working out pretty much every day, just trying to get used to the big gym,” the St. Mary’s grad transfer said.

The Hoosiers will have plenty of opportunity to fine-tune their play when practice officially starts on Monday with a talented freshman class.

“I feel like we’e been getting them well-prepared for what’s coming on Monday,” Durham said. “They’ve had a glimpse of it, but they’ll get adjusted in the first day and as we keep going, we’ll keep improving each day.”