Bloomington's Big Show

BLOOMINGTON-Sometimes you have to pull back the layers of a basketball game to find the story, you know, take it all in before you realize the theme of the night was the war waged under the boards or the sharp-shooting antics of the mites out on the perimeter.

BLOOMINGTON-Sometimes you have to pull back the layers of a basketball game to find the story, you know, take it all in before you realize the theme of the night was the war waged under the boards or the sharp-shooting antics of the mites out on the perimeter.

Heck, sometimes the whole thing just comes down to a made free throw with no time left on the clock and no chance for redemption.

Last night at Assembly Hall for the clash of Duke and Indiana, that wasn't the case.

This game had no undertones. There were no subplots.

No, on this last Wednesday night in November the game was the show.

Top-ranked Duke was in town and anybody who was anybody was, too.

The capacity crow showed up early, like on Tuesday.

In the press room, there were more suits than free pizzas, an unusual site for a group that collectively thinks getting dressed up means wearing socks. And there was less room out on press row than there was in the line for the free pizza.

And with the arrival of a basketball game it had happened, Bloomington, Ind., was suddenly one of those places you see on TV with all the crazy kids in the face paint, the school-colored wigs and the homemade t-shirts.

Indiana was suddenly, once again, a basketball school in a basketball town with a raucous and remarkable basketball arena.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski concurred.

"What an amazing atmosphere," the one-time IU assistant said after his Blue Devils prevailed 75-67. "I remember 30 something years ago when I was here and it hasn't changed, it looks like. That was a great, great atmosphere. When they went ahead, that was about as loud as anyplace outside of Cameron that I've been in."

Of course much has changed since Krzyzewski left, all of it well documented.

Most of that change was a distant memory though, if not permanently then at least immediately, after the play the hall-of-fame coach referred to, the one handed, driving dunk by IU senior Marco Killingsworth with 7:37 left to put the Hoosiers up for the first time all night, 59-58.

At that moment the Hall was so loud that there isn't a cliché that could do it justice. "Un-freakin'-believable," was how Indiana coach Mike Davis described it, pretty much hitting it right on the head.

Davis' observation was made from the post-game podium, a place he has not always thrived after big games and more importantly close losses.

But standing at the podium and in front of a wall of cameras and tape recorders, his team now 3-1, the oft-embattled Davis made no excuses in the wake of defeat, stayed away from any of the foot-in-mouth comments that have plagued his head-coaching career and simply stated the obvious when addressing his team's play in the opening minutes of the game when his team fell behind 16-2.

"We came out and we were as tight as tight can be," he said.

But of course his team would settle down, overcome the jitters that had kept most of them from getting a good night's sleep the evening before and play basketball.

Basketball, after all, was what everyone had come to see. Indiana versus Duke basketball.

You see, in these years of discontent for Indiana basketball, many in the Hoosier nation have taken solace in the fact their basketball program ranks amongst one of the most storied and successful in all of the land, regardless of what happened on the floor.

Regardless of recent history, the Indiana program was on the same level with the likes of a Duke.

But now with the Blue Devils coming to town early in the 2005 season an assured NCAA tourney environment in an arena whose home team hadn't played in a tournament game in the last two seasons was sure to ensue and the time for falling back on laurels for Indiana basketball and Indiana basketball fans was running out.

In a make or be fired season for Davis, this was the first real test. And the whole world showed up to see how the game would play out.

"There's nothing like playing in front of the Hoosiers," guard A.J. Ratliff said. "They've been looking forward to this since Duke was put on the schedule."

And those first five minutes aside, when IU looked like it was about to be Duke-d, the Hoosiers on the court delivered. Indiana's play elevated its fans, elevated the roof off the Assembly Hall and elevated IU's status as a talented college basketball team.

And all of this with a loss.

But this wasn't about moral victories or anything like that.

No, Davis was a disappointed coach when he addressed the masses after the game, a man whose team had just lost to the best team in the land on his home court.

At the same time, he was able to keep things in perspective.

"To lose this game doesn't make or break our season if we can learn and grow from it," he said.

What last night was about was something very simple, it was about basketball.

Indiana basketball, that is, the way it's supposed to be, the way it hasn't been in a while.

It was noticeable.

"This was a big-time game." Krzyzewski said. "It's November 30th, that was a big-time game. We feel very proud of the win, we beat an outstanding team. Great fans. Great setting. For us, it couldn't be any better…"

For Indiana, it could've been a little better – the Hoosiers could have won.

But Coach K was right about one thing, and that was that Indiana versus Duke was a big-time game.

And the game was what it was all about. Top Stories