Dakich Victorious in IU Debut

EVANSTON, Ill. – In what could only be described as eerily awkward, Dan Dakich was formally introduced as the head coach of one of the most storied programs in college basketball tonight, albeit five hours north of Bloomington, in the swanky Chicago suburb of Evanston....

EVANSTON, Ill. – In what could only be described as eerily awkward, Dan Dakich was formally introduced as the head coach of one of the most storied programs in college basketball tonight, albeit five hours north of Bloomington, in the swanky Chicago suburb of Evanston, in front of a predominantly red-clad crowd that boisterously supported the visiting first-game Hoosier coach and his new charges with chants of "defense" and "Go IU!"

Did you catch all that?

Well, that's what kind of week it's been for the Hoosiers – unpredictable, non-sensible and against the grain.

And so after a tumultuous Friday, the now Kelvin Sampson-less Hoosiers descended on the bandbox that is Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night to try to put all the craziness of the last 24 hours behind them and get back to the business at hand – basketball.

As a testament to their grit, as well as their former coach and their new current coach, the Hoosiers prevailed over Northwestern 85-82 to improve to 23-4 on the season and 12-2 in the Big Ten.

Like everything else Hoosier this week, the final moments of the Indiana win were not without emotion, as ten of the game's final 12 points game from the free-throw line.

To finally seal the victory, though, IU turned to the man they've turned to all year.

"It's D.J. being D.J., he's been like that all year," Dakich said, referring to senior forward and Hoosier hero D.J. White. "He blocks a shot, hits the free throws and we win the game. That's D.J."

The official box score didn't credit White with a block on the missed lay-up up by Northwestern's Michael Thompson with five seconds left in the game and IU leading by just one point, 83-82.

But after being fouled by Wildcat guard Craig Moore, White did coolly step to the charity stripe and strengthen his case for Big Ten Player of the Year honors by sinking both of his free throws.

White finished the game with 16 points and 11 rebounds for his the 17th double-double of the year.

Sophomore guard Armon Bassett led Indiana in scoring with a 24 points. IU freshman Jordan Crawford scored 21 points of his own, going four-of-five from 3-point range, to join Bassett and White in pacing the Hoosiers to one of their uglier wins of the season.

"We just had to grind it out," Crawford said.

The grind wasn't helped by a sloppy start by Indiana.

An obviously charged up Hoosier team showed some swagger during pre-game introductions and started the night's scoring on a 3-pointer by Bassett.

White would score his first basket of the night on a dunk with 17:43 left in the first half and IU led 5-3.

After that, Indiana wouldn't lead again until a pair of free throws by Eric Gordon gave Indiana a 56-54 lead with 13:40 left in the game.

For most of the first half, the Hoosiers looked like a team trapped in a collective hangover, drained from the emotion of the day before and perhaps confused by the dismissal of their patriarch in the midst of such a successful season that has them vying for a Big Ten championship.

"(Coach Sampson) was more than a coach to us," Gordon said after the game. "He was a father figure."

The Hoosier players honored Sampson by writing his initials on their sneakers.

Gordon, who finished the game with 18 points, 13 of which came from the free-throw line, was only able to muster four points in that opening half on 1-of-5 shooting. Bassett led all Hoosiers in the first half with 12 points while White chipped in 11.

IU trailed by as many nine points in the first half, but scratched and clawed its way to back to within two at 37-35 at the intermission.

During the halftime break, Dakich turned to assistant Ray McCallum and asked "What do you think?"

"This is how we knew it would be," McCallum responded.

But what no one knew was how what will be known as the darkest chapter in IU basketball history would end.

"You go through our last 24-48 hours, the kids you see playing basketball, they're 18-22 year old kids, they're not robots."

Robots, no. One of the most resilient teams in college basketball today, probably.

Because at the end of it all it ended with new Indiana University basketball coach Dan Dakich hugging senior D.J. White and then turning to a partisan Indiana crowd that had gathered in this, yes swanky, Chicago suburb for Dakich's unveiling.

Dakich waved.

The crowd cheered.

"It's been a tough week," Dakich said before hading back home to Bloomington. "I'm glad we got the win, we'll go from here."

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