Kentucky 102, Indiana 90: Hoosiers' comeback season ends in shootout.

Mar 23, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indiana Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller (40) and guard Matt Roth (30) and guard Jordan Hulls (1) react after losing to the Kentucky Wildcats in the semi-finals of the south region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome. Kentucky Wildcats won 102-90. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

If, before the game, IU fans had known that IU would score 90 points, would shoot 52 percent from the field, would have its best turnover performance of the season (11 percent), and that Anthony Davis would have another subpar performance, most of us would have thought that the Hoosiers stood an excellent chance of winning. As it stood, however, Kentucky beat IU in a way that IU has handled many of its opponents this year: by taking it to the rim and finding their way to the foul line. UK shot an excellent 35-37 from the line, dominated the offensive boards at their end (44 percent, compared to 33 percent for IU), and the nation's number one team avenged its earlier loss to IU and ended the Hoosiers season.

Unlike most losses in this season or any season, it's very difficult to say what IU could have or should have done differently. Kentucky is loaded at every position, and the second rough day for Davis against the Hoosiers was a good break. Ultimately, however, neither IU nor any other team in the country can do much about it when the Wildcats are determined to exploit their athletic advantage, something they did very well last night. I thought the key moment in terms of momentum was when Christian Watford missed the front end of a one and one opportunity with 2:53 remaining in the first half, when IU led by four. I'm certainly not saying that the outcome would have been any different, but expanding the lead to six there might have increased the pressure on UK. But it's not as if that was a bad play or a poor decision. It was simply a missed free throw, something that happens even to top-notch shooters.

Individual performances of note:

  • Christian Watford continued his late season excellence, leading all scorers with 27 points on 9-20 shooting and 6-11 from the line.
  • Cody Zeller scored 20 points on 9-14 shooting and had 7 boards. After drawing 2 fouls in the first few minutes, he committed only one more.
  • Victor Oladipo was very potent offensively scoring 15 on 6-8 from the field.
Well, that's how it ends. When the bracket came out, I was disappointed that the most likely outcome was a season-ending loss to Kentucky. Now that it has happened, it wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be. Obviously, it's aways disappointing to lose in the NCAA Tournament, and the only thing I want from the rest of this Tournament is for someone to beat Kentucky. Still, I think my main concern was that IU would be exposed. While IU lost, and not in a nailbiter, I don't think that happened. IU belonged in the Sweet 16 and on the court with Kentucky, and even though the Wildcats won last night, I would guess that fewer people believe the win in Bloomington was a fluke than thought so before.

There will be plenty of post-mortem here over the coming days and weeks. "Wait 'til next year"" is what every team that falls short says, but in IU's case, it certainly seems true. Not a single one of IU's 90 points was scored by a senior. If both Watford and Zeller return, I don't think it's an overstatement to say that IU will be good enough to contend for the NCAA title. That's a long way off, but the progress seems likely to continue. For now, thanks to the seniors and to the entire team for making IU basketball fun again.
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