Dakich's Home Debut A Success

Bloomington, Ind. - Indiana is getting pretty good at this whole "basketball program in turmoil" thing. In Dan Dakich's first game as head coach at Assembly Hall, Indiana did what it's been doing ever since the Kelvin Sampson firestorm started two weeks ago...

Bloomington, Ind. - Indiana is getting pretty good at this whole "basketball program in turmoil" thing.

In Dan Dakich's first game as head coach at Assembly Hall, Indiana did what it's been doing ever since the Kelvin Sampson firestorm started two weeks ago.

It won.

This time the victim was Ohio State, as the Hoosiers got 23 points from Armon Bassett and 16 points and eight rebounds from the flu-ridden D.J. White to knock off the Buckeyes, 72-69.

With the win, Indiana improved to 24-4 overall and 13-2 in the Big Ten and moved into a tie with Wisconsin for the Big Ten lead. Ohio State, meanwhile, lost for the fourth time in its last five games to slip to 17-11 and 8-7 in the Big Ten.

While the players are still smarting from the departure of Sampson last week, they've managed to set that aside as it continues its quest for a Big Ten title.

"We love Coach Sampson and wish he was out there," Bassett said. "We're at the top of the Big Ten, so we have no choice but to get used to (Sampson's absence). We can't think about that."

The victory didn't come easily against the Buckeyes, who have been searching for a quality win in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers jumped to a double-digit lead in the first half but had to fend off the Buckeyes late to escape with their fourth straight win.

Kosta Koufos scored 18 of his team-high 21 points in the second half to lead the Buckeyes second half rally, but the Hoosiers managed hold on for a victory that competed a season sweep of OSU.

Leading the way was Bassett, who put together his second-straight 20-plus point effort. One of his biggest baskets came with 4:51 remaining on a 23-foot 3-pointer from the top of the key that gave IU a five-point edge, 54-49. Bassett also added four free throws in the final 33 seconds to help the Hoosiers hold off the Buckeyes late.

"I've been trying to attack more," said Bassett, who made 7-of-11 shots including four of IU's five 3-pointers. "D.J. and E.J. are the focal points for our offense…I've been trying to be more aggressive but still stay in the team mode."

But Bassett wasn't the only player to come up with big bucket. Lance Stemler had a key offensive rebound and putback that pushed IU's lead to seven, 56-49, with 4:07 left. After OSU cut the IU margin to four, 58-54, a minute later, Eric Gordon scored on a putback dunk after a Stemler miss that gave IU a six-point cushion.

The dunk was one of the highlights for Gordon, who scored 17 points but struggled through a 4-of-16 shooting night and committed seven of IU's 13 turnovers.

"I couldn't hit anything," Gordon said. "Good thing Armon hit a lot of shots for us throughout the game."

While Ohio State made five of six field goal attempts in the final minute, Indiana made 9-of-10 free throws in the final 1:02 to preserve the win.

"I think our team showed what it's about," Dakich said. "It's a resilient team. D.J. has had the flu. He's hurting, down a little weight. Armon is cramping. I'm proud of our guys."

It was also a special night for Dakich, the long-time IU assistant who returned to Bloomington in the off-season after spending the last 10 seasons as the head coach at Bowling Green. He joked afterwards that he enjoyed not having to look out his Bowling Green basketball office hoping that a few fans would turn out for the game. Instead, he was warmly welcomed by 17,389 IU fans at the game's outset, and he was glad to be able they were able to enjoy another victory for the IU team.

"I'm aware IU fans love, live and die with basketball," Dakich said. "I'm also aware fans are hurting. I'm appreciative of the fans. So I did think about that (when I walked off the court), how great this place is, how wonderful these people are."

Those people have watched Dakich play for the Hoosiers in the mid-80s, serve as an assistant coach in the late 80s and 90s, and now fill in as the head coach on an interim basis for the last two games. He is just the fourth former IU player to serve as the program's head coach, following in the footsteps of Branch McCracken, Everett Dean and Lou Watson.

Dakich said he has received countless phone calls of support from former IU players in the past handful of days, including the likes of Steve Alford, Dane Fife, Calbert Cheaney, Dane Fife, Steve Eyl, Brian Evans and Damon Bailey.

While it figures to be quite some time before IU fills the coaching vacancy, Dakich couldn't help but admit that he'd love to eventually be the full-time replacement in Bloomington.

"If you don't want to coach at Indiana, you don't want to coach," Dakich said when asked about whether he'd want the job on a full-time basis. "It's the best place in America. It always has been, and it always will be."

D. White 7-13 2-4 16, Stemler 1-7 0-0 2, Bassett 7-11 5-5 23, Ellis 2-5 1-2 5, Gordon 4-16 8-9 17, Thomas 0-2 0-0 0, Crawford 3-6 3-4 9, Taber 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 19-24 72.

Koufos 8-18 3-3 21, Hunter 6-9 0-0 12, Butler 5-12 0-0 12, Turmer 5-9 2-3 13, Lighty 2-5 1-2 6, Hill 0-0 0-0 0, Diebler 1-6 0-0 3, Terwilliger 1-3 0-0 2, Lauderdale 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 6-8 69.

3-Pointers: Indiana 5-25 (Bassett 4-8, Gordon 1-8, Stemler 0-6, Crawford 0-2, Ellis 0-1), Ohio State 7-25 (Butler 2-8, Koufos 2-3, Diebler 1-6, Turmer 1-4, Lighty 1-3, Terwilliger 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 39 (D. White 8), Ohio State 34 (Turner 7). Assists: Indiana 10 (Gordon 3), Ohio State 15 (Butler 8). Turnovers: Indiana 13, Ohio State 16. Blocks: Indiana 2 (D. White), Ohio State 8 (Koufos 4, Hunter, Lighty, Diebler, Terwilliger). Steals: Indiana 8, Ohio State 5. Officials: Ted Hillary, Steve Welmer, John Cahill. Attendance: 17,389

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