Bloomington Herald-Times Article
Identity crises for IU: Indiana battles itself, Illinois, while putting up season-low 43 points in Big Ten road loss
by Chris Korman
January 24, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — D.J. White got the ball once to the right of the basket in the low block.
Two Illinois players fronted him.
He kicked it back out to Joey Shaw.
The Illini defense sagged.
Shaw gave it right back to White, who turned for an easy jumper.
Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson ran down his sideline, shouting at his bench: "See how patient we were? See how patient?"
His plea went unheeded.
That patience didn't last Tuesday, as Indiana was pressured into offensive execution worthy of mid-October and lost 51-43 to Illinois.
The Hoosiers' (14-5, 4-2) lowest score this year had been 51, in the second game of the year against Butler.
Only one player, White, scored in double figures against the Illini (15-7, 3-4), who snapped a two-game losing streak at their Assembly Hall.
Many of the problems that hurt Indiana earlier this year reappeared, making Sampson seem a prophet. On his radio show Monday, he said that his team hadn't completely eliminated those faults and would need to continue working.
On Tuesday, they included:
- Inability to get to the lane. Armon Bassett, Earl Calloway and Joey Shaw all appeared to have permission to try to go to the net frequently. All three were constantly swamped and unable to kick out or dish off to a forward for an easy basket.
- Weak defense in the paint, especially on the secondary scorer. This has a lot to do with personnel, since the Hoosiers lack a true center and are thin at forward. Two of Illinois' most important baskets came when coaches and players realized there were holes in the paint. Warren Carter ducked away from Lance Stemler and went back door for an easy slam to take a 39-35 lead, and Shaun Pruitt found space away from D.J. White when he tried to help, and was open for a big dunk that made it 45-37 and impossible for the Hoosiers to recover.
- An un-Sampson-like failure to play with more desperation than the other team. Since he didn't build this squad, Sampson has had to instill the attitude that has defined previous teams. It sometimes wanes.
"I didn't like our identity tonight," Sampson said. "It's not just offense, your attitude about competition carries over in every phrase of the game.
"We're the kind of team that if we don't play with a chip on our shoulder and with an edge, we're not very good."
This was the type of game where those intangibles Sampson spoke of really mattered. Neither team scored a point off a fast break. Every basket came either off a well executed set or a rebound and put back. Illinois scored 10 more points in the paint and five more on second chances.
Sampson thought this was the first time his team failed to play up to his standards. In their other road losses at tough arenas — Duke, Kentucky and Ohio State — he didn't fault their effort. This time, he did.
After executing just fine and opening up an 18-11 lead at the 12:21 mark, Indiana scored just five points the rest of the half.
Then the Hoosiers failed to score their 25th point until Joey Shaw it a jumper 5:03 into the second half. During the span it took for them to go from 18 to 25 points, the Hoosiers hit just 1-of-15 shots from the field.
Illinois made the ever-popular and always-ambiguous "adjustments" to subdue the Hoosiers.
"I think we came out a little flat," Illini senior guard Rich McBride, who led all players with 15 points, said. "They got the ball inside and kicked out for jumpers. Coach got on us and we made some adjustments."
Indiana hit three 3-pointers in that opening run, but managed just two more the rest of the game.
But simultaneous to Illinois' increased pressure on the outside was — somehow — better defense against White. He had eight points in the first half and just four in the second.
"I think Shaun (Pruitt) did a great job on D.J. White," McBride said. "They went to him a lot and Warren did a good job helping him out."
Truth is, what Illinois did was just part of the reason for Indiana's sputtering.
Sampson stalked the sideline and grumbled after almost every offensive possession. If he wasn't busy yanking a player up off the bench looking for someone to make a better decision, that is.
When asked how difficult it would be to get his team's energy level back where it needs to be, Sampson answered, "Not very hard. We'll get it back Wednesday."
Weber, who did indeed shake Sampson's hand before and after the game, said he got the game he expected from the Hoosiers.
"It was just an old-fashioned, Big-Ten boarder war game," he said. "Kelvin Sampson is a good coach. He gets his kids to play their asses off. They're tough, they're hard-nosed. And you gotta deal with 'em."