Hulls did what he does

Photo by Chris Howell.

Indiana recruit Jordan Hulls screams after hitting a buzzer-beating half-court shot Saturday morning.

Jordan Hulls, you can tell, always plans a few steps ahead of anyone else on the basketball court.

Sometimes, it does not work.

“I knew (New Albany star Donnie Hale) was in foul trouble, so I just tried to take it in,” Hulls, a senior who will join Tom Crean’s Indiana team next season, said of his drive late in the first half of South’s 61-50 win against New Albany in the regional semifinal at Seymour Saturday morning. “He just threw my stuff to half court.”

That’s a blunt — and still understated — way of describing what the 6-7 forward did when Hulls arrived near the rim.

“That’s OK with me,” Hulls continued, “we got the ball back. Donnie, his wing span’s ridiculous. So you can’t be going in there like that.”

It was especially OK with Hulls because South ended up with the ball out of bounds — after a controversial non-foul call that angered New Albany fans — and 0.6 seconds left. He took the pass, turned and shot from about midway between the half-court and 3-point lines.

The ball dropped straight through the net.

Like that, the energy in the gym gusted from one side — clad in red and black — to the other — clad in purple.

Hulls’ shot gave the Panthers a 27-19 lead heading into the locker room. He let out a scream as he ran that way.

“That was a huge momentum builder,” he said. “I just kind of threw it up. We were messing around yesterday after practice, throwing up half court shots, like we were going to have to hit one of those today. Luckily that one went in. That was a big shot to go in to half time and have some momentum coming back out.”

Chaz Cooper scored four points — on a layin created by a Hulls assist and a pair of free throws — to open the third quarter. Hulls eventually made three plays early in the fourth quarter that secured the win. He dove after a ball and called time out, then jumped up to steal a pass and a few possessions later won a tussle under the net.

The Panthers stretched the lead over 20 and the Bulldogs closed by pressuring and hitting shots late in the final quarter — they had 24 of their points in the fourth — but the game was never in doubt.

Hulls finished with 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting (1-of-2 from 3, 5-for-6 from the line). He also had four steals and seven assists.

So it was a typical Hulls performance. Even more so than during the regular season he has taken on the role of facilitator and manager — the roles he excelled in to earn attention of so many Division I coaches during the AAU season last summer.

It was Hulls who picked up quickly on New Albany’s willingness to run. Unlike the two teams South played during sectionals — Bloomington North and East Central — the Bulldogs were not intent on slowing the game down, and used the triangle and two defense sparingly.

“We like to get up and down the floor,” he said. They did a little big of triangle-and-two, but not like all the other teams we played. That was definitely more our style and we got some more fast-break points, which we didn’t get in the sectionals, so that was good for us and we did a lot better.”