Author's note: This recap was written on March 16, 2012, retrospectively assessing a game played in Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. on February 22 of the same year.
MACOMB, Ill. - In the annals of college basketball, a game between Indiana University and North Carolina Central University in late February is an oddity, an outlier, a blip on the schedule in the heart of conference season, when IU should be beating up on Big Ten foes while NCCU takes on its MEAC slate. Andy Glockner called it the most "random, totally useless" non-conference game of the season.
In a way, it was. IU coach Tom Crean admitted he just wanted to fill a bye week and keep his players active, so the "guarantee game" was moved from its original December date after Indiana's conference schedule was released. The outcome was essentially a foregone conclusion from the opening tip, as the 14-win Eagles (a number that included four, count them, four, wins over non-Division I foes) took on a Hoosiers squad searching for its 21st victory with just one loss at home. Indiana opened the game on a 24-9 run and ultimately owned as much as a 24-point advantage before settling for a 75-56 win.
And yet, it wasn't. The NBA scouts on hand in Assembly Hall that night weren't there for Indiana's stars - not Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo or Christian Watford. No, they were there to see the Eagles' biggest talent - a junior forward named Dominique Sutton. He did not disappoint, and in the process, Sutton might have opened the eyes of that homer-ridden, Big-Things-Are-Best crowd... maybe just a bit.
Sutton was pure electricity on the court, tearing through the Hoosiers' defensive sets at will. Backdoor cuts, dribble-drives, circus-shot layups, he made them all - racking up a game-high 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting, four steals and a pair of assists in 38 minutes of frenetic, passionate basketball. Even the Indiana students had no answer for Sutton... all the vaunted Crimson Guard ("Largest Student Section in the Nation") could do was silently cast their eyes upon a superior individual performance.
Unfortunately for NCCU, basketball is a team sport - requiring All Of Us, Each Of Us - and Indiana's team performance that night couldn't be outmatched by Sutton's efforts, no matter how much he tried to carry the Eagles to victory. NCCU could muster just 35 combined points from their 11 players not named Dominique, while the Hoosiers just kept feeding the rock to Zeller in the post, Oladipo slashed through the paint and Will Sheehey couldn't miss. The night wasn't right, the Red Line Upset wasn't to be.
But as the MEAC's Norfolk State "shocked the world" in a 15-over-2 upset of Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament tonight, I remembered Dominique Sutton and the Eagles. For me, there was absolutely nothing shocking about Kyle O'Quinn going off for 26, or Pendarvis Williams shooting 7-of-9 from the floor. There should be nothing surprising about the talent, drive and heart of HBCU athletes - not if you were paying attention the night Sutton shut up Indiana.
at INDIANA 75, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL 56 02/22/2012
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL 14-13 (8-5) -- D. Sutton 10-16 1-2 21; R. Willis 3-8 4-4 10; J. Ingram 2-7 6-10 10; E. Chapman 1-3 0-0 3; J. Leemow 0-0 0-0 0; E. Anyaorah 3-6 2-3 9; N. Chasten 1-2 0-0 3; D. Best 0-0 0-0 0; T. O'Neal 0-0 0-0 0; K. Jawara 0-0 0-0 0; T. Beaman 0-0 0-0 0; J. Nicely 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-42 13-19 56. INDIANA 21-7 (8-7) -- W. Sheehey 6-9 0-0 12; C. Zeller 6-9 5-9 17; J. Hulls 2-3 0-0 5; V. Oladipo 5-8 5-6 16; C. Watford 0-8 2-2 2; D. Elston 3-5 2-2 10; V. Jones III 2-5 5-6 9; M. Roth 0-0 0-0 0; T. Pritchard 0-0 0-0 0; R. Abell 1-2 0-0 2; A. Etherington 1-1 0-0 2; D. Moore 0-1 0-0 0; K. Barnett 0-0 0-0 0; J. Howard 0-0 0-0 0; R. Smith 0-0 0-0 0; T. Wayer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-51 19-25 75.
Three-point goals: NCC 3-10 (E. Anyaorah 1-2; R. Willis 0-2; N. Chasten 1-1; E. Chapman 1-3; J. Ingram 0-2), IND 4-10 (V. Jones 0-1; D. Moore 0-1; D. Elston 2-3; J. Hulls 1-1; C. Watford 0-2; V. Oladipo 1-1; W. Sheehey 0-1); Rebounds: NCC 16 (J. Ingram 4), IND 34 (W. Sheehey 7); Assists: NCC 9 (D. Sutton 2), IND 13 (C. Watford 2); Total Fouls -- NCC 22, IND 15; Fouled Out: NCC-None; IND-None.