Gordon the difference for IU

Gordon the difference for IU

Freshman guard pours in 22 to lead Hoosier past Salukis

By Chris Korman, H-T sports writer

December 2, 2007

Indiana guard Eric Gordon is fouled by Southern Illinois’ Tony Boyle during a drive to the basket in the second half Saturday night in Carbondale, Ill. Gordon had a game-high 22 points in the Hoosiers’ 64-51 win. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Dec. 2, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois played the game it wanted to play Saturday night, badgering Indiana with its characteristically pesky defense.

It didn’t matter. The Hoosiers had Eric Gordon.

The freshman guard made it clear that he is one of most talented offensive players in the country, scoring 22 points in No. 15 Indiana’s 64-51 win at SIU Arena.

Southern Illinois came into the game having lost only three games at home since the beginning of the 2001 season. It also had been excellent at forcing teams to have more than one scoring option, having allowed only two players to score 20 or more points since the beginning of last season.

“We made (Gordon) take some very tough shots,” Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery said. “As a coach you can live with the guys hitting tough shots. It wasn’t an easy 20.”

Gordon, the target of derogatory cheers all night, was never really bothered.

Just as important, the Hoosiers were able to hide the fact they had no guards in reserve and a smallish forward, Mike White, on the floor for 21 minutes by playing zone defense.

It worked because D.J. White was rambunctious under the net, blocking three shots. Gordon and Jamarcus Ellis, who had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, also had three blocks each.

The Salukis aren’t the most prolific offensive team and their 37.5 percent shooting from the field wasn’t entirely due to Indiana’s zone.

“They’re capable of hitting those shots,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Sometimes you get fortunate.”

Indiana had a six-point lead at the half, but neither team came out of the locker room looking to score. Southern Illinois forward Matt Shaw finally tipped a ball away from Indiana at the top of the key and went in for a dunk.

Then, Gordon took control of the game. He grabbed a defensive rebound. He blocked a shot from Bryan Mullins. He hit a mid-range jump shot over Mullins.

His end-to-end rush at 11:18, which he finished by splitting two players and hitting a left-handed lay up, silenced the crowd. He and guard Armon Bassett then hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 46-34.

Meanwhile, D.J. White controlled Southern Illinois’ top scoring threat, Randal Falker, holding him to 12 points. Because White did not have to chase Falker out to the perimeter – as he would have done had he been playing strictly man defense – the Hoosiers had a more stable presence in the paint.

White also had a team-high 12 rebounds, nine on defense, and his energetic play early in the game allowed the Hoosiers to wait for Gordon to solve what Southern Illinois showed him. That’s becoming a trend.

“He let the game come more to him tonight,” Sampson said of Gordon. “I thought he was a little bit more composed. He’d been rushing things. He needs to learn to play at different speeds.”

Only when Indiana took more care to box out and crash the boards in the first half did the rest of its game plan begin to work. Southern Illinois had a 12-8 lead and an 8-3 rebounding edge eight minutes into the game.

By the end of the half, both teams had 17.

Indiana finished the game with a 38-29 edge.

“They were attacking us on the offensive glass really hard,” White said. “So it just took all five of us making an effort to crash the boards.”

Indiana did not have guard Jordan Crawford due to suspension and Brandon McGee, who has been sick, dressed but did not play. Gordon, Bassett and Ellis all played more than 35 minutes.

“You can’t worry about that,” Bassett said. “It’s just what you need to do for the team right now.”

Sampson liked the way his team played together in winning its only true road game of the non-conference schedule. He feels his inexperienced team is finally starting to see that the end result is more important than the style of achieving it.

“The only statistic that should matter is the one on the scoreboard at the end of the game, and our kids are starting to get that,” he said.