Baby, were they born to run?

One of the first thing Indiana players noticed about Arkansas was that it preferred to run. The Razorbacks won’t walk the ball up the floor much.

Once upon a time, when a man named Kelvin Sampson coached the Hoosiers, they, too, were a team that was supposedly going to win by pushing the ball past opponents.

For a multitude of reasons, that never happened. The Hoosiers didn’t have a four-man who could become a regular part of the running attack and more often than not you would see Eric Gordon charging down the floor accompanied by one other guard. As proficient as Gordon is around the basket — both at scoring and drawing fouls — he could not handle every break on his own. And with D.J. White emerging as a truly dominant player, the Hoosiers had to build more of their offense around him.

If you’ve ever played basketball, you know that there’s a sense of pride in being able to “run” with another team. It’s part of the machismo of the game. But when you’re in the NCAA Tournament, pride doesn’t go as far in winning games as it might in other venues.

Nonetheless, Indiana’s players are saying that they’ll run with Arkansas.

“We have four good guards on our team,” said senior forward D.J. White. “We like to get up and down the court when the opportunity presents itself and hopefully get in transition sometimes and see what we can do.”

Armon Bassett, who has improved significantly at directing the run as the point guard, is ready to play a different style after the sluggish Big Ten season.

“I think that will be a plus, playing up and down a little bit,” he said. “A lot of teams in the Big Ten, they don’t shoot the ball until about six, seven seconds (are left) on the (shot) clock. We can play up and down but we have to push it on transition, miss or make.”

Eric Gordon at least mentioned a need to slow Arkansas down.

“I think we can play up-tempo, too,” he said. “We just have to slow them down a little bit, and I think we are prepared for their strategy.”

Against Michigan State in East Lansing, Indiana’s players could not slow the Spartans and were not prepared for their strategy. The Hoosiers transition defense amounted to running blindly toward their own basket in hopes of getting in the way of the ball, if largely by accident.

“You’ve got to be organized in your transition defense,” Indiana interim coach Dan Dakich said yesterday.

And on offense, Dakich doesn’t want Indiana to move too quickly.

“You can’t allow their speed to quicken your pace to the point where you’re uncomfortable doing the things that you would normally do; meaning you get the ball and you shoot it too quickly, as opposed to being in rhythm,” he said. “And that’s a big deal any time you play a team that likes to get up and down and likes to play fast.”

Arkansas won’t change what it does.

“We play a running kind of basketball,” said sophomore guard Patrick Beaverley. “We don’t walk the ball up the floor. We’re not going to change anything. We’re going to do the things that we normally do. We’re not going to put new plays in. We’re going to do things that got us here. What got us here is defending and running, and we’re going to continue doing that.”