BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – They darn near pulled an all-nighter at Assembly Hall, capping off a marathon evening with what might have been an unprecedented event.
After a loss.
In a nearly empty gym.
Ever seen that before? Me neither.
That was Indiana’s surreal, stubborn statement on the big picture of the season. The net-cutting followed a Big Ten championship trophy presentation, plus championship hats for the players. The Hoosiers had clinched a tie for the league title on Sunday, when Wisconsin and Michigan State both lost, and this was the first public opportunity to flaunt that fact.
But the celebration came as a jarring juxtaposition after a 67-58 upset loss to Ohio State – a demoralizing outcome that prevented the Hoosiers from clinching their first outright Big Ten title in 20 years and loosened their grip on a user-friendly NCAA tournament path through the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis.
So what exactly was this? A celebration or a slap in the face? A night of pride or a night of disappointment?
“This is the epitome of bittersweet,” coach Tom Crean said, when his press conference finally got underway at roughly 1:40 a.m. ET. “We’re trying to celebrate what these guys have earned, and at the same time we didn’t earn it tonight. …
“There was no question we were going to [cut down the nets]. These guys have earned that. I have a responsibility to them. We’re going to hang our own banner up there [in the rafters]. … They came in here and looked at those banners every day, and now they’re going to get a chance to hang one.”