Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Holy Hoosier -- Leaping Pritchard, Football Signings and Upset Victory
Was that really Tom Pritchard, the guy who looked like he could soar over tall buildings, who did, in fact, leap over Minnesota’s triple towers?
Yes, it was.
Oh. Pritchard hit free throws. Really. He did. Two of them. Yes, this isn’t impressive as Jordan Hulls’ 28-straight-over-two-months run, but for a guy hitting 20 percent for the season, it’s huge.
On this night, he was the best big man on the floor even with Minnesota’s double-double machine Trevor Mbwakwe (held to seven points and nine rebounds), plus Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson.
Things went so well Assembly Hall fans chanted Pritchard’s name. At the start of the season, they were cursing it.
Isn’t progress a wonderful thing?
Sure, there were lots of reasons why IU stunned No. 18 Minnesota, 60-57. Verdell Jones returned from a three-game absence because of an inflamed knee to score 12 points. Matt Roth came off the bench to do what he does best, drain three-pointers. Hulls ran the offensive show with eight points, six assists, two steals and one turnover. Victor Oladipo had five points and six rebounds. The Hoosiers committed just nine turnovers, basically battled the Gophers to a draw on the boards and again played tenacious defense (helped by poor Minnesota shooting).
But the thing that stood out was Pritchard, a long-time offensive under-achiever (a 1.7 scoring average) who seemed to have a vertical jump you needed a microscope to measure. But in one highlight reel moment (it should be posted on YouTube for all time) he soared for the kind of dunk you’d expect from the high-flying Oladipo.
The Hoosiers said he does this all the time in practice. Coach Tom Crean said the same thing. Since practices are closed, we’ll have to take their word for it.
Anyway, Pritchard has become a popular guy on Twitter, which is a huge turnaround given he is usually the Hoosier tweeters love to rip. In fact, he was one of the top 10 topics on Twitter during the game. Why? Because of his tomahawk dunk over 6-11 Ralph Sampson (Jones called it a “Space Jam Michael Jordan reach back”).
When informed of his new-found fame, Pritchard treated it like as if he’d just been handed a time bomb.
“They’ve been killing me on Twitter, so hopefully that’s a good thing.”
Here’s what’s good. Pritchard scored a season-high 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting and those two free throws. He was aggressive, which is what Crean told him to be. Specifically, the coach wanted Pritchard to dunk everything. Forget the jump shot or layup. Just jam the sucker.
So he did, and the Gophers faced the consequences.
Suddenly IU basketball is hot again. It’s beaten two straight ranked teams at home (No. 20 Illinois went down last Thursday). It was one missed free throw away from upsetting Michigan State at the Breslin Center, where it hasn’t won in 20 years.
Maybe Indiana should thank Iowa. It hasn’t been the same since stinking up Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and that’s a very good thing. Now it’s four wins away from postseason eligibility with eight regular season games remaining.
Yes, it has a NIT chance. And if Pritchard can dunk on Sampson, the Hoosiers can win those four games.
Amazing, isn’t it?
IU football coach Kevin Wilson landed a 21-player recruiting class. He signed 12 players on defense and nine on offense. Seven are from the state of Indiana.
“The class has balance across the board,” Wilson said. “We got a good mix of guys up front and skill guys. There is great athleticism and potential in this group.”
While this class ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten, that’s a bit misleading given that nine conference schools rank among the top 50 nationally. Plus, Wilson and his staff got a late start because of the coaching transition. They really didn't kick it in gear until January.
Anyway, one of the more intriguing prospects is Indianapolis Lawrence Central quarterback Tre Roberson. Some figure he’ll be a receiver or running back. Not so fast, Wilson said. The Indiana Mr. Football will get a shot at quarterback.
The dual-threat guy (as a senior he threw for 2,611 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 1,992 yards and 21 TDs) is the fourth Mr. Football to play for the Hoosiers and the first since Earl Haniford in 1995. Roberson’s grandfather, Larry Highbaugh, played defensive back and ran track for Indiana. He also spent 13 years in the Canadian Football League.
“Athletically he acts like a quarterback,” Wilson said. “It looks like he has natural leadership skills. He throws well. He runs well. It’s nice when a quarterback is an athlete because sometimes you need a guy who can make (tacklers) miss.
“He does the things quarterbacks do. Like every young quarterback, he’s trying to learn the college game. We’ll know more six months to a year down the road, but we have some coaches who have played and coached the position. We can do a good job getting him pointed in the right direction.”