Bloomington – Rarely has a 48-point win left as empty a feeling as it did Monday night at Assembly Hall.
That’s because the headline of Indiana’s 90-42 demolition of still winless Bryant (0-13) wasn’t the full-court pressure induced dominance in the first half, a 12-point, three-steal performance by Jordan Hulls in his first Hoosier start, or the resurgent 11-point, eight-rebound effort from Tom Pritchard.
Instead, it was a likely season-ending knee injury to Maurice Creek that muzzled any sort of celebration.
With Indiana leading 60-24 with 15:26 remaining, Indiana’s star freshman crumpled to the ground underneath the north end basket clutching his left knee following a drive to the basket. Creek was in significant pain before being strapped to a stretcher and taken to the Hoosier locker room.
Creek didn’t return to the court or the bench after the injury, and IU Coach Tom Crean said afterwards that Creek suffered a fractured left knee and he’ll undergo surgery Tuesday..
“I’d say it’s probably going to be the year for him,” Crean said. “He’s a very, very special young man. It’s gut wrenching on so many fronts.”
Crean said the staff is in the process of getting Creek’s family to Indiana so they can be with their son for the surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Steve Ahlfeld in Indianapolis.
Creek’s loss is a significant one for a variety of reasons. In addition to a nation-best 17.5 points per game for a college freshman, Crean said Creek has also brought a level of confidence to the court that is uncharacteristic for a college newcomer. That will now be lacking as IU prepares to open Big Ten play Thursday at Noon against Michigan.
The injury and subsequent news of the severity left Crean and the IU players in a sullen mood afterwards.
“I looked at it and it didn’t look right,” said Verdell Jones, who shared team scoring honors with Christian Watford with 15 points plus seven assists. “We’re going to dedicate the rest of the season to him.”
“Unfortunately injuries are a part of the game,” said Tom Pritchard, who had one of his best games of the season with 11 points, eight rebounds and a block in 24 minutes. “It sucks seeing a teammate and friend go down. We have to rally together and I know Mo will give us that support and extra voice off the bench.”
Crean said that the emotions voiced by Jones and Pritchard were shared by everyone on the team who received the news of the injury’s severity after the game from their head coach.
“They’re not down because 18 points are gone,” Crean said. “They’re down because their teammate is crushed.”
The injury clearly hit Crean hard as well. The Hoosier coach said he began recruiting Creek as a sophomore and offered him a scholarship after watching him play only one half of basketball. Crean said he and the star freshman had developed such a strong relationship that Creek intended to play for Crean and Asssistant Coach Bennie Seltzer wherever they were, whether it was IU or Marquette.
“He’s an 18, 19 year old young man who is very, very worried about where he sits right now,” Crean said. “We have a lot of people around him who will help him. He’s one of the best freshmen in America and his season is over. It probably hasn’t hit him yet.
“Outside of that, his knee hurts him a lot right now. We’re just hoping we can get him a good night’s rest and relieve his pain and the doctors will work their magic tomorrow.”
Creek’s injury was one of the few things that didn’t go well for the Hoosiers, who opened a 45-17 halftime lead and cruised to its largest win since a 100-52 win over Western Carolina on Dec. 15, 2007. After struggling in the opening halves of each of its last two games, Indiana dominated the early going against a Bryant team that has now lost 15 in a row dating back to last year.
Crean’s team did it with a recipe that produced a great deal of success in the second half of last week’s loss to Loyola (Md.). From virtually the opening tip Indiana pressed and trapped Bryant, creating 10 first-half turnovers and 17 points off turnover, helping them open a 12-2 lead in the game’s first five and a half minutes.
The lead continued to build from there, growing to as many as 29 in the opening half and as many as 50 in the second half. Indiana’s dominance was so complete that little-used reserves such as Steven Gambles, Brett Finkelmeier and Kory Barnett played – in the first half.
Even Creek’s injury couldn’t slow the Hoosiers on the scoreboard, as they limited Bryant to 25 percent shooting from the floor and 18 percent shooting from behind the 3-point arc while also forcing 19 turnovers. But his absence will be much harder to absorb now that Indiana is preparing to enter Big Ten play with Creek.
“In football, they talk about next man up,” Crean said. “Here, it’s not a situation where it’s next man up, it’s not where any one individual is going to come in and get 18 points per game. Everyone has to do more. That’s the bottom line.”
Watford 7-10 0-0 15, Pritchard 4-6 3-9 11, Hulls 4-7 0-0 11, Creek 1-3 0-0 3, Jones 5-8 4-5 15, Barnett 0-1 0-0 0, Finkelmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Rivers 2-3 3-4 7, Moore 0-0 2-2 2, Muniru 0-1 0-0 0, Capobianco 2-3 0-0 4, Gambles 0-1 0-0 0, Elston 4-6 0-0 9, Dumes 3-8 5-6 12, Jobe 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 32-58 17-26 90.
Latham 2-13 1-2 6, Lo 1-2 0-0 2, Chroney 4-8 5-9 13, Birrell 0-1 0-0 0, Parzych 0-2 0-0 0, Calandrillo 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan 0-6 0-0 0, Abendroth 0-2 0-0 0, Smith 2-9 0-0 5, Kondratyev 4-10 2-2 10, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Pontes 1-4 2-2 4, Leclerc 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 15-60 10-15 42.
3-Pointers: Indiana 9-22 (Hulls 4-6, Elston 1-1, Watford 1-2, Dumes 1-6, Creek 1-3, Jones 1-3, Barnett 0-1), Bryant 2-11 (Latham 1-4, Smith 1-2, Birrell 0-1, Parzych 0-2, Jordan 0-1, LeClerc 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 50 (Watford 9), Bryant 32 (Chroney 9). Assists: Indiana 20 (Jones 7), Bryant 8 (LeClerc 2, Latham 2, Jordan 2). Turnovers: Indiana 18, Bryant 19. Blocks: Indiana 7 (Muniru 2, Watford 2, Pritchard, Rivers, Capobianco), Bryant 5 (Lo 2, Kondratyev 2, Latham). Steals: Indiana 11, Bryant 11. Officials: Steve Welmer, J.D. Collins, Bob Donato. Attendance: 11,138.