BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It's Thanksgiving week, and my mother's in town to celebrate the holiday with me. My roots as a basketball fan go back to her roots in Los Angeles -- I cut my teeth watching the Showtime Lakers, Magic and Kareem and Worthy. So it was altogether fitting that the first thing we did together was catch a Hoosiers game at Assembly Hall on Monday night. Unfortunately, as has been the case with all of Indiana's early-season guarantee games... it really wasn't a game at all. The Hoosiers blew out Gardner-Webb, 73-49.
What must it be like to be a coach facing near-insurmountable odds? What must it be like to lead a team out onto the court knowing that you're outmatched not by a little, but by a lot? How does one explain to their players the economics, the reality, the hard dollars and sense reasoning behind guarantee games? Or does one even try at all? This is the Internet age, though -- I can't imagine the players haven't figured it out, even if only by a Google search.
The Bulldogs handled the loss with class -- no technicals, no screaming matches, no angry words exchanged, or at least, none that I could hear from the lower bowl. Instead, the bench looked from the very beginning as if they were a row of condemned prisoners awaiting their fate -- resigned to the inevitable, but with a quiet determination to delay it for as long as possible.
In this case, the inevitable happened even earlier than in the previous games. Never once was Gardner-Webb able to so much as tie the game up. Ten minutes in, the score was 21-8 and a 25-6 run to open the second half wrapped things up definitively.
Looking ahead for the Bulldogs, they're a young team but with definite flashes of talent. Freshman guard Max Landis gave a good account of himself, hitting seven of 14 from the field to lead all scorers with 18 points. Jason Dawson also shot .500 for the night and joined Landis in double figures. Second-year coach Chris Holtmann needs to tell Tashan Newsome to quit shooting and start dishing, though -- his point guard was 1-for-8. Their defensive struggles (giving up 63% 2-point shooting) are more concerning as they prepare for Big South play.
Guarantee games might be the ultimate form of trickle-down economics: the rich, power-conference teams cut checks to the little guys as long as they shut up and take the loss. Win your guarantee games and you might find it very difficult to land on anyone's paycheck schedule. Nobody likes an ungrateful guest, after all. By that standard, the good folks at Gardner-Webb were very gracious visitors: they came, they played, they lost, they left. For the Bulldogs, it's on to Butler, as they join Savannah State in making a Hoosier State guarantee-game twofer -- forever dreaming of taking home a check and a win.
at INDIANA 73, GARDNER-WEBB 49 11/21/2011
GARDNER-WEBB 2-3 (0-0) -- M. Landis 7-14 2-3 18; J. Dawson 4-8 4-6 14; M. Byron 1-2 0-3 2; T. Newsome 1-8 0-0 2; S. Johnson 1-4 0-0 2; K. Hartley 1-6 0-0 3; L. Buggs 1-2 0-0 2; D. Harper 1-2 0-0 2; C. Hensley 0-0 0-0 0; T. Strange 1-3 1-4 4; J. Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 7-16 49. INDIANA 5-0 (0-0) -- C. Zeller 6-8 1-2 13; C. Watford 3-9 2-2 8; J. Hulls 1-4 0-0 2; V. Oladipo 5-11 3-4 13; V. Jones III 0-1 3-6 3; W. Sheehey 7-11 0-0 15; D. Elston 3-5 3-4 10; M. Roth 1-4 0-0 3; T. Pritchard 2-3 0-0 4; A. Etherington 0-1 0-0 0; D. Moore 0-0 0-0 0; R. Abell 1-2 0-3 2; K. Barnett 0-0 0-0 0; J. Howard 0-0 0-2 0; R. Smith 0-0 0-0 0; T. Wayer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-59 12-23 73.
Three-point goals: GWB 6-22 (J. Dawson 2-6; T. Newsome 0-3; D. Harper 0-1; T. Strange 1-2; M. Landis 2-6; K. Hartley 1-4), IND 3-18 (V. Jones III 0-1; M. Roth 1-4; D. Elston 1-1; J. Hulls 0-3; C. Watford 0-3; V. Oladipo 0-2; W. Sheehey 1-2; A. Etherington 0-1; R. Abell 0-1); Rebounds: GWB 27 (T. Newsome 6), IND 41 (D. Elston 9); Assists: GWB 6 (T. Newsome 3), IND 19 (V. Oladipo 5); Total Fouls -- GWB 25, IND 19; Fouled Out: GWB-K. Hartley; IND-None.