Crawford comes through for IU

Crawford comes through for IU

Freshman pours in 20 points as Indiana rolls despite missing Gordon, Bassett

by Chris Korman, H-T sports writer

December 9, 2007

Indiana’s Jordan Crawford (5) drives against his brother, Joe Crawford of Kentucky, during Saturday’s game at Assembly Hall. Crawford had a career-high 20 points to lead the Hoosiers past the Wildcats, 70-51. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Dec. 9, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

Eric Gordon rested.

Armon Bassett was suspended.

D.J. White sat most of the first half.

Indiana beat Kentucky, 70-51.

If the trick of great poetry is to fit words together that otherwise don’t seem to make sense in tandem, the No. 15 Hoosiers crafted a verse Saturday at Assembly Hall that their fans will merrily recite for at least a year.

Jordan Crawford scored 20 points and D.J. White finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds – his fifth straight double-double – and Indiana never trailed as it beat Kentucky for the first time since 2000.

The Wildcats’ 51 points was the lowest they have scored against Indiana since 1940. Kentucky still leads the series 28-23.

Sampson said he figured out on Thursday that Gordon wouldn’t play. Shortly after saying in a press conference that day that he expected the freshman to be ready, the team held practice and Gordon had trouble getting in his defensive stance. He has a bruised lower back.

“As soon as he squatted, he felt it,” Sampson said.

Gordon dressed for the game Saturday, but never even so much as pretended to warm up.

Bassett showed up Saturday in a tie and cardigan, and never changed into his uniform. After the game Sampson said that the sophomore point guard was suspended for an undetermined number of games for breaking an undisclosed team rule.

That pushed Crawford, who was returning from a three-game suspension, into the starting lineup for the first time this year.

He smiled when he got the ball on the opening possession. Standing across from him was his brother Joe, a senior guard for Kentucky.

“I didn’t think that he was going to check me,” said Crawford, whose parents Joe Sr. and Sylvia watched the game from behind the Indiana bench. “When I saw him on me I had to smile, but then I had to get to business.”

Crawford had success driving the lane off of screens and even hit a banked 3-pointer, one of three on the day. He was also able to get to the line 10 times, as Kentucky spent the afternoon in foul trouble and had two starters foul out.

Sampson was most proud of the way Crawford ran the offense, which to this point in the year had not been very coordinated because of the freedom given to Gordon.

“I thought he really ran the offense,” Sampson said. “Jordan studies things pretty well.”

For a 10-minute stretch in the first half, Crawford had to run the offense without White in the game. White left at 10:42 after picking up his second foul. Sampson went deeper into his bench than he has since early in the season, as DeAndre Thomas played 12 minutes in the half and freshman Eli Holman and Brandon McGee were used.

Thomas scored eight of his 11 points in the first half, including a two off an impressive move in the paint on his first touch. That seemed to knock Kentucky back just when it thought it had a chance to make a run.

“He really gave us some juice,” Sampson said of Thomas, a 295-pound junior who had played 17 minutes the past three games.

Kentucky did pull within four, as Patterson dunked and hit a free throw to make it 17-13.

Indiana went on a 12-2 run – Thomas had half the points – and Kentucky only got as close as seven points the rest of the way.

White scored the 1,000th point of his career and once again played a game that made his sluggish start seem months in the past. Sampson said that White had lacked “rhythm” early in the year.

Now playing primarily center, where he is more comfortable, White has his rhythm back. And he has been assertive in the paint. Saturday he helped contain Kentucky freshman Patrick Patterson, who had 15 points. Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie wanted to “live and die” with the freshman, but Indiana wouldn’t allow it. The Hoosiers doubled him and pushed him toward the perimeter when he did get the ball.

“We had a good plan to monster, or post double, Patterson but that stuff doesn’t work if your guards don’t do a good job rotating behind it,” Sampson said.

Facing a depleted Kentucky team – it, too, was missing three important guards – Indiana did not play a game that will be remembered as much for the play-by-play on the floor, but rather the circumstances under which it won. Sampson, who is now 21-0 at Assembly Hall, said he believes his team has become tougher over the last two wins, at Southern Illinois and against Kentucky.

“I thought we played tough,” Sampson said. “I don’t know that we played great, but I thought we played tough. And that was something we knew we had to do today: we had to grow up and be men.”