February 2, 2007
IU in the zone; Hoosiers relied on unusual defense to upset Badgers
By Chris Korman
February 2, 2007
This was so different.
Instead of scurrying around, guarding a player man-to-man, Indiana players were settled back in a 2-3 zone for most of the second half Wednesday against Wisconsin.
They all spread their arms — as if they were stumbling down a dark hallway — to try to measure their spacing.
They hadn't done this so much before.
Yet it worked.
Or maybe that's why it worked.
"I didn't anticipate playing one defense more than another," Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. "It's one of those deals, you throw it against the wall and see what sticks. If the zone's working, why not stay in it?"
Indiana was able to limit the damage Wisconsin's star forward Alando Tucker could do. He finished with a game-high 23 points but was 1 for 4 in the final 10 minutes of the game, and his teammates could not hit the shots they were left open for by Indiana's collapsing defense.
The zone also allowed Indiana to limit the number of times Wisconsin went to the line. Wisconsin averaged 26.7 chances from the line coming into the game — the fourth-most in the country — but took just 17 Wednesday and hit only 11.
Indiana was less comfortable playing zone and left too much open space. After the Hoosiers took a 10-point lead with less than ten minutes left, Wisconsin was able to get back into the game quickly with easy baskets from players other than Tucker.
But Sampson was willing to cede those baskets — and his team's usual grating and tough defense, its identity — because it stymied the best player on the floor.
"Two keys for us going in were keeping Wisconsin off the free throw line and, in some way, trying to neutralize Tucker," Sampson said. "He had 23 points tonight, and I think we did a great job on him."
Hearing from Sampson
Indiana student season-ticket holders received an e-mail from Sampson prior to the Wisconsin game.
It wasn't exactly a heart-felt message from the coach but it apparently worked.
It implored the students to arrive early and be loud.
"We've got the best student fans in the country so GET THERE EARLY AND BE LOUD!!!" it read.
The students accomplished both, much to the delight of the Indiana athletic department.
Hearing from the students
What the athletic department was not so thrilled with was the way the students poured down onto the court, a mass of humanity swarming over the deep-pocketed fans who pay for the seats closest to the floor (also known as "old people.")
"We're glad they were so enthusiastic but we'd rather they keep that enthusiasm in the stands," said assistant athletic director Frank Cuervo.
A.J. Ratliff, who scored 19 second-half points to will the Hoosiers to the win, joked that he feared for his safety.
"It was cool, you know," he said, "but a dude with a wig just came and tackled me."
Right. Celebrate the win by clobbering the guy who scored the most points and happens to be wearing a cast on his wrist