Gordon injured, but IU prevails 84-72

What was supposed to be a comfortable evening for IU and their fans turned into a night filled with anxiety. When All-American candidate Eric Gordon went crashing to the floor with six minutes left in the opening half after a hard drive, the IU fans applauded the effort. But when they watched the nation's second-leading scorer limp off the court moments later a hush fell over the crowd.

What was supposed to be a comfortable evening for the Hoosiers and their fans turned into a night filled with anxiety. When All-American candidate Eric Gordon went crashing to the floor after a hard drive with just under six minutes left in the first half, the IU fans applauded the effort. But when they watched the nation's second-leading scorer limp off the court moments later a hush fell over the crowd. With Gordon unavailable, the Hoosiers had to fight, scrap, and claw their way to a surprisingly hard-fought 84-72 victory.

"When I made the decision to discipline Jordan (Crawford) we knew these last three games were going to be tough," said Indiana Coach Kelvin Sampson. "I'm just really happy we are 3-0 and won all three games. That's the most important thing to me. I'm not really into analyzing this game. We won it."

It was anything but easy, though. If not for a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds from D.J. White IU might not have prevailed. Sampson said his senior leader is beginning to take more pride in earning double-doubles each night and is improving with every game. On Monday he hit his first ten shots from the field and would finish 11-16 from the field.

"Obviously we had to step up," said White. "Our playmaker, our leading scorer was hurt and coach had them keep going to me. If it was one-on-one I tried to make an aggressive move; if I was doubled I tried to kick it out. And when he went down we all knew we had to step up our play."

At the time of Gordon's departure IU led 36-17 and seemed well on their way to an easy victory against their Ohio Valley conference opponent. Gordon, who bruised his back, wouldn't return for the remainder of the game, further depleting an already thin IU guard rotation. With reserves Crawford and A.J. Ratliff unavailable due to disciplinary suspensions, the Hoosiers had to rely on sophomore Armon Bassett and junior guard JaMarcus Ellis to run the show. What ensued was a second half a little too close for comfort as the fouls on both teams mounted up.

"We have five guards and tonight we only had two of them," said Sampson.

"Five more minutes and (D.J.) would have been our point guard."

The Hoosiers 13-point halftime lead was quickly cut into by the visiting Tigers, who took advantage of the Hoosiers lack of ballhandlers by increasing their pressure and showing a lot of full-court pressure in the second half. Before the game was over IU would commit a season-high 19 turnovers.

The Tigers spirited defense would have meant little though without the offensive explosion of junior Bruce Price. The 6-foot-1, 185 pound shooting guard has had a tough career overcoming two ACL surgeries and a rough start to this season. The Minneapolis native was 5-25 from behind the arc coming into the game, but that was ancient history on Monday night at Assembly Hall. Price scored 20 points in the opening half alone and would finish the game with 34 on 5-7 shooting from behind the arc.

"He is tough, isn't he?," said Sampson. "He is hard-nosed. You have to really respect a kid like him. He missed two years after ACL surgery. You have to have a lot of respect for him. This is one of those nights he will remember for the rest of his life. I thought he was the toughest guy on the court tonight."

The consensus best player on the court, Gordon, only played 12 minutes on Monday night and finished with just eight points, including six made free throws. Luckily, Gordon's injury isn't believed to be serious and Sampson said he expects him to start Saturday against Kentucky. His absence in the second half was largely precautionary.

"Even if he could have played, I wouldn't have brought him back," said Sampson. "Our guards have been playing too many minutes, but there's nothing we can do about that. We were a foul away from playing four post guys there at the end, but that's just the way it is."

The Hoosiers lack of ballhandling saw the Tigers close the lead to 62-53 with just under ten minutes left when Price recorded his 30th point of the night. A three-pointer after a steal by Moraye Ivey cut the lead to seven seconds later. The Hoosiers responded quickly though. Senior Lance Stemler knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to push the IU lead to 71-58 with just over six minutes left and IU was never seriously threatened again. Stemler's nine points on the night, along with a ten point, ten assist, and seven rebound effort from Ellis, helped pick up the slack left by Gordon's departure. It wasn't the prettiest game, but Sampson wasn't being picky afterwards.

"A month from now this is going to be a W just like the Southern Illinois game, no different," said Sampson. "We will get E.J. back and Jordan back, both of them will be back this week and that will make Armon and (Ellis) a lot better players. When they are playing 30 minutes and 32 minutes instead of 39 minutes they are both better players."

The Hoosiers will now have five days to rest before taking on arch-rival Kentucky Saturday in Assembly Hall.


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