Too little, too late for IU

Too little, too late for IU

Hoosiers rally from 16 down in second half to tie before losing to UCLA in second-round game

by Chris Korman, H-T sports writer

March 18, 2007

UCLA’s Darren Collison steals an in-bounds pass intended for Indiana’s Earl Calloway in the final minute of Saturday night’s second round West Regional game in Sacramento, Calif. The Hoosiers trailed 51-49 at the time, and had to foul. The Bruins then put the game away at the line to win, 54-49. Chris Howell | Hoosier Times
From the March 18, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Indiana’s Earl Calloway kept looking up, probably seeing nothing.

He’d just fouled out of his final college game, sending opposing point guard Darren Collison to the line to hit the two clinching free throws in UCLA’s 54-49 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at ARCO Arena Saturday night.

A night full of powerful moments left Indiana without another game to play, but its fans with a game that will allow them to remember this team as it probably should be remembered.

“In a lot of ways, this game sort of embodies what this team is all about,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said.

For so long, Sampson talked about developing an identity for his team. But that meant something so entirely different this year, with him in his first year coaching players he didn’t recruit.

It meant that the identity would have to be a willingness to embrace the role of a team that would always fight to find some way to win a game.

D.J. White was as good as he’s been, scoring 12 and grabbing 14 rebounds against a constant double team, but wasn’t enough.

As the buzzer sounded, Errek Suhr grabbed his red warm-up jacket by the collar, holding it like it was something he would never let go of as he shook hands for a final time.

Indiana somehow found offense late in a game that left so many uniforms soaked through with sweat and the scoreboard barely taxed.

Trailing 46-33 with five and a half minutes left, Indiana started doing what it has done to be successful all year and hit a few 3-pointers. Lance Stemler knocked one down and Rod Wilmont, held to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, hit his only 3 of the game.

With 1:48 remaining Wilmont got into the lane and hit a bank shot to pull Indiana within two points.

But Arron Afflalo, the Pac-10 Player of the Year who was held to two field goals by Indiana, surged through the lane and was fouled. His two free throws put UCLA up 49-45.

Stemler, feeling confident at the other end and matched up against weak defender Alfred Aboya, dashed right for a spot behind the arc. His shot was off but Aboya fouled him.

Stemler hit the first two and missed the third. D.J. White worked to keep the ball alive before Stemler grabbed it and fed Calloway, who sliced through the center of the court and tied the game.

Afflalo again drew a foul and hit both shots.

UCLA then pressured the inbounds, knocking the first attempt out of bounds. The Bruins did the same on the second attempt, forcing IU to throw the ball in from in front of the Bruin bench.

Lance Stemler took the ball there, slapped his palm to the leather and set his teammates in motion. The inbounds play, Sampson said after the game, was No. 11. It’s probably been practiced hundreds of times.

Stemler threw a lead pass for Calloway charging up the sidelines just a few feet away.

Collison was waiting for it. He grabbed it and was fouled by Calloway.

“Lance led me instead of throwing it to me,” Calloway said. “That’s how it happened.”

Every person on UCLA’s bench was shouting behind Stemler. Bruins coach Ben Howland thought that made a difference.

“Give UCLA credit,” Sampson said. “They defended it well. We would have liked to inbound it and see what we can do.”

Sampson said Indiana’s free-throw shooting cost it the game. The Hoosiers shot 10-of-21 from the line. Calloway was 3-for-7 after shooting over 80 percent all year.

“It’s uncharacteristic for us,” Sampson said.

A 7-0 run by UCLA to start the second half was more than the Hoosiers could surmount.

It all started fairly innocently, with Armon Bassett getting a little lost on defense and fouling Josh Shipp on a 3-point shot. Then Afflalo got to the net for a lay-in and Shipp was there to rebound a miss shot and score.

Indiana shot 5-for-28 (17.9 percent) in the first half, including 0-for-8 on 3-pointers. But its strong rebounding and ability to avoid fouling UCLA kept the game close. Indiana defended well enough to force UCLA into 26.9 percent shooting and sent the Bruins to the line only five times.

UCLA did pull out to a 20-13 lead at the half, when Luc Richard Mbah a Moute grabbed an offensive rebound and converted on a three-point play.

Sampson said the Bruins’ experience – making a run to the title game last year – may have been the difference in the first half. His team lost in the second round last year, shrouded by the mist of Mike Davis’ imminent departure.

So it spent this year becoming a team that he wanted it to be, one that it could be: a few baskets shy of the Sweet 16.

“It was a very emotional lockerroom,” Sampson said. “Lot of tears. But kids that don’t cry usually don’t invest. This team invested.”