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January 24, 2013

RONN MOTT: ‘Hoosier Saturday Night’

Last Saturday night was a basketball fan's picnic. Three great games, six great teams and, mostly, the people I cheered for won.

The first game was a real barn burner. (Can I still say that in Indiana? Most of the outbuildings being built these days are not made of combustible material.) It was in Wichita, Kansas at the building they call the "Round House," and the Shockers had put their home grey uniforms in a box and they were dressed all in black. The sold-out arena was mostly in black as well as they were urging a "black-out." And the team from Wichita State started out to do damage against the No. 1 team in the conference, the Creighton Blue Jays. Just to make the contrast even more of a visual treat, Creighton was wearing their home whites. The Wheat Shockers came out and shot a blazing 70 percent at the beginning of this contest. Wichita was the best team and Creighton had the best player in Doug McDermott. By half-time, Creighton has pretty much caught up to Wichita State. It was a real tussle but, in the final seconds, Wichita State would win the game. I'm sure the crowd (the sixth man) had a lot to do with it. It was a great ball game.

Our second basketball treat was Indiana State entertaining Evansville. The Aces started out ahead. They blazed the nets early in this ball game, but the tenacious defense of Indiana State would catch up with them by half-time. Just when I thought the Sycamores were doomed to failure, they got tough, made some critical shots, and as time was running out they were running away with the ball game. They were so sluggish at the beginning of the game I said they were playing like a bunch of old women. That did not endear me to my wife. As the game was winding down and the Sycamores were comfortably ahead, she looked across the way at me and said, "Ronn, the old women are winning the game!" I must learn to keep some thoughts to myself. The Sycamores now stand tied for third in the Missouri Valley Conference race which, if they hold this spot, will certainly help them in the MVC Arch Madness Tournament.  

The third and final game was the pitting of two bulldog nicknames against each other. In the last few years, you would have to say Gonzaga and Butler are two mid-majors that have been really good in the national basketball arena. Butler's top shooter was unable to play because of a sprained neck. It is an injury that could have been much, much worse when it happened a week or so ago. So, their artillery diminished, Butler and Gonzaga fought it out tooth and toenail on the floor of Hinkle Fieldhouse ... probably the most exciting finish I have seen or heard about this year. Young Mr. Stockton from Gonzaga had only three seconds or so on the clock. He had a one-point lead, and all he had to do was pass the ball in successfully. He tried to throw the ball over a defender's head, got it too high, and Roosevelt Jones of Butler intercepted the ball, drove towards the basket, hoisted a floater, and the ball had just left his hand when the red light on the backboard came on, the horn blared, and the shot went in the basket. Before the game, the announcers spoke about the Hinkle Fieldhouse "magic" and all of us were witness to the fact.  

Congrats to the Sycamores for showing the grit they are becoming famous for. I'm sure somebody must have taped the Wichita State-Creighton game because both these titans of the league will be coming here. Man, what a night of basketball!

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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