The celebration was going to go on, regardless of the game’s outcome.
Indiana University President Michael McRobbie was there to hand out the Big Ten men’s basketball trophy. Big Ten championship hats were ready to be distributed.
But after an emotional Senior Night ceremony, after Indiana players cut down the nets despite losing to Ohio State, the seniors and IU coach Tom Crean agreed that the celebration was bittersweet.
“Obviously we didn’t like to lose, but we did earn the right to cut down the nets,” Jordan Hulls said after Indiana’s 67-58 loss to the Buckeyes on Tuesday night.
“These guys have earned that,” Crean said. “These guys have worked to a point where they have earned it. They came in here and they looked at those [Big Ten championship] banners every day and now they’re going to get a chance to hang one. … Whether it’s shared, whether it’s not shared, they’ve earned that.”
Hulls’ emotion had been on teary display during his Senior Night speech — he admitted at the start of his speech that he “might get a little emotional” — but he and fellow seniors Christian Watford and Derek Elston were glum when they finally talked to reporters long after the game.
That’s understandable as the second-ranked Hoosiers could have clinched IU’s first outright Big Ten title since 1993 with a win over the Buckeyes. They still can, as IU’s 13-4 record is one game better than the Buckeyes’ 12-5 mark. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin were all 11-5 with two games to play.
But the Hoosiers will need to win at Michigan to ensure an unshared regular-season title and the top seed in the Big Ten tournament.
It was well after midnight when the three seniors came to the press room to talk about the loss, leaving little time for them to espouse about the loss to the Buckeyes.
It didn’t take long for Hulls to pinpoint the reasons for the loss, though.
“We just didn’t execute offensively,” he said after IU’s lowest scoring game of the season. “We allowed way too many transition buckets, turned the ball over too much, which led to them getting easy buckets. …
“We just didn’t do a good job of coming out with that edge that we needed to have to win the ballgame.”
Elston said the Hoosiers’ mental errors midway through the second half helped do the Hoosiers in.
“Any time you dwell on one of those, you’re just not playing your game anymore, and I think that’s what happened tonight,” Elston said.
It was after 1:30 a.m. when Crean talked to the press. He admitted he was tired and ready to go home, knowing that there was plenty of film-watching in the near future.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt there’s disappointment,” Crean said. “They’ve earned it … I think it’s important to remember we didn’t play that way tonight, either.
“The good news is all our stuff is correctable. The bottom line is we have to do that.”