College baseball season has started, just as catchers and pitchers report to spring training. Our neighborhood stadium featured Indiana State, Iowa, U. Conn, and Ohio State in last night’s Snowbird Classic, while Braves players are welcomed back to town this weekend as part of an open house. The first Grapefruit League game here is Saturday when the Red Sox visit Cool Today Park, just a mile from where we live.
I.U. basketball suffered another setback this past week, losing to Northwestern in the series that dates back to 1908. The Hoosiers lost that game 21-18, but at one point won 26-straight against the “Mildcats,” as they were once known, with an overall record of 119-56. The two teams have split the last ten matchups, but it’s a rarity when I.U. fails to win in both Bloomington and Evanston the same year. When this does happen, as it did this season, you can expect bazaar circumstances. All we can do is perhaps look forward to another opportunity to redeem ourselves in the BIG Tourney, although this year it’s in Chicago.
After storming the court against the Boilermakers last Sunday after the program’s first win over an opponent ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, the suddenly well-respected Wildcats (19-7, 10-5 Big Ten) jumped out to a 21-point bulge but needed a Boo Buie basket with two seconds left to ultimately put the Hoosiers (18-8 9-6) away.
I.U. was only able to score a season-low 20-points in the first half and trailed 39-20 at the break. They watched Northwestern attempt 18 3-pointers, mostly uncontested, plus gave up five dunks or layups and twelve perfect trips to the line. From this fan’s perspective, the worst moment was when two technical fouls were called on the I.U. bench, protesting a missed traveling call. Here’s how another obviously bitter fan reacted on the Inside the Hall website:
“Coach Woodson should absolutely file a formal complaint to the Big 10 about official Larry Scirotto. He has demonstrated a clear bias against IU in every match he has officiated (most notably the Iowa game and yesterday vs Northwestern.) He is an alumni of Northwestern University school of police and command which is a clear conflict of interest in any game they are contesting and he has a checkered past in which he was fired from the Ft. Lauderdale police department for discrimination in hiring practices. If the Big 10 conference is serious about cleaning up the myriad problems it has with their officials it should start with the dismissal of Mr. Scirotto who is clearly not impartial , doesn’t address issues which may endanger players from certain teams and appears to be on a power trip of his own. Enough with officials like these!”
Besides the team’s gutsy resilience in this game, the most positive factor was Race Thompson, no longer sporting a brace, looking like his old self, while hitting 4-for-4 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free throw line to finish with 15 points. Trayce Jackson-Davis had a game high 23 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two blocked shots after playing for all but one minute of this come-back effort. Disappointment is all I can say for Northwestern transfer Miller Kopp, who in three games against his former team has only managed a total of 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting from the field. Jalen Hood-Schifino added 13-points but could have made the Hoosiers hysterical if his half-court, last-second shot hadn’t bounced off the iron with the scoreboard reading 64-62.
Once again, I.U. lost the critical race to 60 at the 2:26 mark just as they did against Michigan, but in this case the ball didn’t bounce the right way at the end. The hapless Hoosiers had 13-turnovers while forcing only four, but they shot better from the field than the Wildcats (48.9% vs. 36.8%). One more basket would have positioned the Hoosiers just one-and-a-half games back of Purdue, who lost to Maryland. Instead, Northwestern took over sole possession of second place with a chance to catch the Boilers. “Mildcats” no more! The Illini are next on the schedule.