Bloomington, Ind. – Only one question remained after a short-handed Indiana team whipped Kentucky 70-51 Saturday.
How badly would the Hoosiers have beaten the Wildcats?
Despite the absence of Eric Gordon due to injury and Armon Bassett due to suspension, Indiana pounded Kentucky in its first visit to Assembly Hall in 17 years.
The Hoosiers dominated from the outset. D.J. White scored six points in the game's first six minutes to help IU to a 9-2 lead. After White had to depart minutes later with a second foul, Jordan Crawford responded with back-to-back 3-pointers followed by a steal and fastbreak lay-up to push the lead to eight.
Indiana would eventually extend its first half margin to as many as 14 before settling for a 37-25 lead at halftime.
Any thoughts of a second-half Wildcat charge were quickly dashed courtesy another IU run, this time a 9-0 IU spurt to start second half that had the Hoosiers up 21, 46-25. Kentucky would get no closer than 17 the rest of the way.
With Gordon and Bassett sidelined, the Hoosiers leaned on D.J. White and Crawford to lead the way. White finished with his sixth straight double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) and became the 41st player in IU history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark.
But it was Crawford's 20 points and 39 minutes that stood out the most. Playing in his first game back from a three-game suspension, Crawford earned his first start and played all but one minute – the final minute after the game had long since been decided.
The Hoosier freshman also easily won bragging rights in the Crawford household with his performance, as his brother, Joe, was limited to 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting for Wildcats. In case Kentucky's leading scorer on the season didn't realize that, the IU crowd of 17,410 let him know that with periodic chants of "Jordan's better" during the game's final 15 minutes.
"I thought he played great, played with excitement and exuberance," Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie said of Jordan Crawford.
Indiana needed everything it got from Crawford thanks the absence of Bassett and Gordon. Their absence left IU Coach Kelvin Sampson with no choice but to go almost exclusively with Crawford and Jamarcus Ellis all afternoon.
Sampson said he originally expected Gordon to play earlier in the week after he suffered an injury to his hip/lower back in Monday's win over Tennessee State. But as the week went along, Sampson said Gordon was in pain when he'd get into a defensive crouch in practice and it was apparent by Thursday that he likely wouldn't be able to play.
"One thing I've found out about Eric – he must have been hurting," Sampson said. "There's no game more important than a young man's health."
Gordon was dressed for the game but didn't go through any of the pre-game drills. It's unclear whether he'll be ready for the Hoosiers' next Saturday against Western Carolina.
"If he can't play next Saturday, that's his call," Sampson said. "He and his parents and the doctors have more say on that than I do."
The same can't be said for the decision to sit Bassett, though, who was disciplined for violating unspecified team rules. The Hoosier sophomore was on the IU bench but was dressed in street clothes. Sampson said he's unsure how long Bassett will be sitting out.
"I haven't decided that yet," Sampson said.
The Hoosiers hardly missed them Saturday, as they dominated Kentucky in every facet while improving to 8-1. Indiana owned a 37-29 edge on the glass and forced Kentucky into 19 turnovers. Indiana also earned 32 trips to the free-throw line and wound up fouling out Wildcat starting guards Ramel Bradley and Michael Porter.
In addition to Crawford's 20 and White's 16, Ellis chipped in 12 points, five rebound and five assists, while DeAndre Thomas came off the bench and contributed 11 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.
Sampson said Thomas' play was especially important.
"Him coming off the bench really juiced us," Sampson said.
Ultimately it was a solid win for the under-manned Hoosiers against a Kentucky team that was also depleted by injuries, saddled with foul trouble and is still getting comfortable with its first-year coach. It's also one that extended IU's homecourt winning streak to 23 games.
"I don't know that we were great today, but we were tough," Sampson said. "Great might come later. But right now I'll settle for tough."
D. White 6-11 4-4 16, Stemler 1-3 2-2 4, M. White 1-4 5-6 7, Crawford 5-10 7-10 20, Ellis 4-8 3-5 12, Thomas 5-10 1-5 11, McGee 0-0 0-0 0, Holman 0-1 0-0 0, Ahlfeld 0-0 0-0 0, Taber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-47 22-32 70.
Coury 1-2 0-0 2, Patterson 6-9 3-5 15, Bradley 2-5 0-1 5, Porter 1-4 0-0 3, Crawford 4-15 1-3 10, Stewart 0-2 1-2 1, Stevenson 3-5 4-4 10, Perry 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 2-6 0-1 5, Carter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-49 9-16 51.
3-Pointers: Indiana 4-9 (Crawford 3-5, Ellis 1-2, Stemler 0-2), Kentucky 4-16 (Crawford 1-6, Bradley 1-4, Harris 1-3, Porter 1-2, Perry 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 37 (D. White 13), Kentucky 29 (Stevenson 6). Assists: Indiana 10 (Ellis 5), Kentucky 9 (Patterson 2, Crawford 2, Stevenson 2, Harris 2). Turnovers: Indiana 15, Kentucky 19. Blocks: Indiana 2 (D. White 2), Kentucky 2 (Bradley , Harris). Steals: Indiana 8, Kentucky 4. Halftime Score: Indiana 37, Kentucky 25. Officials: Ed Hightower, Zelton Steed, Eugene Crawford. Attendance: 17,410
Short-Handed Hoosiers Hammer Kentucky
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