There are countless plays, statistics, trends, etc… that we can look back on from the Big Ten opener between Indiana and Illinois and analyze.
IU’s 83-80 overtime loss to the Illini had no shortage of examples in this one.
I want to focus on one play though. At the time it seemed to get a lot of attention, at least on social media, when Tom Crean chose to not take a timeout at the end of regulation in a tie game. Instead, he let the Hoosiers run a play which ultimately came down to a short missed jumper from the right baseline by Evan Gordon just before the buzzer sounded.
And on to overtime the two teams went.
A great deal of the Twitter chatter at the time seemed to suggest that Indiana fans weren’t crazy about the decision. From the tone of some of the questions in the postgame press conference, I got the impression that many in the media had the same sentiment.
Myself, I thought Crean’s decision was ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT ONE.
To the old school Indiana basketball fan, it was a page right out of Bob Knight’s playbook.
If you call timeout, while you do have the advantage of organizing your own offense, you also allow an equally young team on the other side to get organized as well. By not calling timeout, you’re sending the message to your own team that you have enough confidence in them that they’ll get in the right set and get a good shot.
And Indiana got just that, a good shot. It just didn’t go in.
It’s clearly a helpless feeling for the opposing coach, players and fan base to know the final play of regulation is completely out of your hands. You don’t have the opportunity to huddle up or potentially put a different personnel group into the game. You have to sit back and hope the team you have on the floor can handle the situation.
From Indiana’s standpoint, If it works, it’s the one and only thing anyone is talking about today. All of the conversation would be on how Crean had enough confidence in his players, even at this stage of the season, to let them control their own fate. If it doesn’t work, you obviously leave yourself open for second guessing.
But I’ll tell you what. From my position, there was absolutely no reason to second guess. It was the right call. It just didn’t work.
I believe I tweeted that sentiment at the time, saying that my only preference would have been that someone like Yogi Ferrell had taken that last shot rather than Gordon. Even though Gordon would have been ahead of a few other options in my opinion, I would have just liked to have seen Yogi have a chance to drive the ball and make something happen.
But in reality, you cannot be unhappy with the shot that Gordon got in that situation. The only disappointment is that he didn’t short arm it a little bit and that he ultimately wasn’t the hero when the shot was off target.
And with the Gordon’s history with Illinois, with brother Eric deciding at first to play for the Illini and later to de-commit and sign with Kelvin Sampson’s Hoosiers, can you imagine the story lines if Evan Gordon had come into the State Farm Center and beat the Illini at the buzzer? Let’s just say there would have been no shortage of stories to write on that topic.
There is another way to look at this, too. If you call timeout, say with 15 seconds or so to play, you open yourself up to the chance that a lot of things could go wrong. Let’s don’t forget this is an Indiana basketball team that turned the ball over a season-high 23 times on Tuesday. If you had taken the timeout and called a play, who is to say you would have even gotten off a good shot in the closing seconds?
For that matter, who is to say you would have even gotten the ball inbounded or been able to make a successful entry pass without something going wrong? Who is to say, the Illini wouldn’t have ended up with a chance to win in a similar fashion than it had the year before when Tyler Griffey hit the layup at the buzzer in a 74-72 Illini win?
I understand the instant frustration by IU fans that it was an opportunity that slipped away. But I still believe, by not calling timeout, you eliminate a lot of bad things that could have potentially happened.
But again, you also open yourself up for ridicule if the play doesn’t result in a game-winning outcome.
Let me just say this: If the same situation occurs in a future game, I hope that Crean learns from what happened at the end of Tuesday’s Illinois game … and does exactly the same thing.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch