Pepperdine loss last March on minds of Indiana players
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- It would be hard for Kirk Haston to forget the worst game of his college basketball career -- against Pepperdine.
He remembers the dismal play that led the Indiana Hoosiers to their second worst NCAA Tournament loss in Bob Knight's final game. He, like his teammates, recalls the Waves' suffocating pressure, which befuddled the Hoosiers all night.
And then there was the knee injury that ended Haston's season, 38 minutes prematurely.
Haston, like his teammates, took the loss personally.
"That was probably the lowest point ever, right when I knew I was done in Buffalo," Haston said. "It was really painful to be there and not be able to help your teammates. Back at the hotel, afterward, I really didn't sleep much. I watched a couple of pay-per-view movies, but I really didn't sleep much."
For eight months, Haston and his teammates have coped with those painful emotions and bitter memories.
Tuesday night, though, Indiana has an opportunity to make amends for the Buffalo blowout; they face Pepperdine in the first round of the Preseason NIT.
"It was horrible, it was a nightmare for us," swingman Dane Fife said. "It probably was as low as I've ever felt in my college career. We owe Pepperdine."
Owing them is one thing; but paying them back is something entirely different.
What plagued the Hoosiers on that miserable night was, simply, ball-handling. Pepperdine forced 21 turnovers, built an early lead and never gave Indiana a chance to catch up.
Coach Mike Davis, who makes his head coaching debut in the Pepperdine game, expects another round of the Waves' harassing defense.
"I'm a little afraid of Pepperdine, to tell you the truth," he said. "Last year, they were pretty good, and we just want to make sure we're ready to play against them with our press attack."
Having Haston back should help.
Haston, a preseason all-Big Ten selection at center, said he has completely recovered from the knee injury that required offseason surgery and cost the Hoosiers their only serious inside threat in the first matchup.
"Who's to say if I was out there, that maybe they could have gotten me the ball and maybe A.J. [Guyton] would have gotten more than three shots?" Haston still wonders. "Nobody really stepped in and gave us an inside presence that night."
That shouldn't be a problem this time.
The Hoosiers now list five players who stand at least 6-foot-9 and the group possesses more athleticism than Hoosier frontlines of recent years.
Still, the Hoosiers face many challenges.
First, they're young. Indiana is likely to start one freshman -- forward Jared Jeffries -- and rely on two others --- guards A.J. Moye and Andre Owens -- to help handle the Waves' pressure-packed defense.
Then, there's this: No experienced point guard.
"One thing that's really good about our offense is that we don't really need a point guard calling out one play," Haston said. "The thing we've got to have is somebody or two people to get the ball down the floor."
Indiana, however, has struggled with that facet during its exhibition games.
On Friday, against Marathon, which possesses nowhere near the quickness of Pepperdine, the Hoosiers committed 22 turnovers.
"If we do that, we're going to get hammered by Pepperdine," Fife said following Friday's game. "I thought it was pretty ugly."
But the Hoosiers have no intention of allowing things to get ugly against the Waves this time.
"Our job is to come out and beat people and play up to our capabilities," Fife said. "I think we're ready, and I think we're a better team than we were then."