On a night when foul trouble could have easily substituted for free throws as our fatal flaw, IU turned on its swagger and turned off its youth.
After waiting for Vega's prophecy to come to bear (a late game melt-down after 35 minutes of decent ball), IU turned a page on the record books and likely a turned a corner in the Crean resurrection project. It was a veritable Hoosier trifecta: 1st true road win in almost 2 full years, a wire-to-wire lead (save 2 brief ties) that would have been surrendered on any other night before this, and a boost to 5th in the conference standings (forget the fact that it's just the 3rd week of conference play, we're in 5th-FUCKING-PLACE!!!). Oh, yeah. We also pissed on PSU's 3-game streak against IU.
This was big. Real big. I'd almost have sanctioned the road fans storming the Bryce Jordan court after this one (but I'll donkey punch anyone who ever tries to strom a PSU win at home). This win, however, has nothing to do with Penn St. (save the fact that their poor selection of basketball players to accompany Taylor Battle all but handed us this win). This was all about what IU took and not what Penn St. gave us.
IU took a sweeping turn for the better tonight.
This turn is where Crean has been dying to take his players and followers since he arrived. For all his rah-rah tweets, Crean has been spot on about his young squad needing to learn to compete and using every small success as a stepping stone to its next challenge. Winning on the road and at least competing for something other than bottom of the conference is absolutely essential in building confidence in the program, inside and outside of it.
College Station marked the turning point where the Hoosiers started dictating pace and matching its opponent blow for blow after establishing a lead. The new direction revealed a team that played comfortably within the boundaries of its limitations and without its familiar, self-defeating tendencies (read: free throws, turnovers, & ill-advised shots at exactly the wrong moment).
We've all heard of the "Michigan left turn," but IU seemed to have taken the "Minnesota right" after Sunday's overtime win. Suddenly we're heading towards a 3-game conference streak and a plus .500 record past the mid-way point of the season.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not seeing a mirage of post-season play & conference relevance, but let's savor the view for just a moment before we resume what could soon be another 10 or 11-game losing streak. No matter what the road ahead may hold for our Hoosiers, we'll never again speak of Crean's 1st IU road win. We'll never again see a 1 or 2 win conference season. We'll never lack a positive reference point when the game's on the line, the crowd and the refs are against us, and our opponent's on the ropes.
All those things are in the rear view mirror now. We've turned that corner. Hopefully, Crean's Tom-Tom knows the fasted route to the next turn.