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All hail the Hall

BLOOMINGTON -- You forget how much fun this all is, after too long away. Indiana vs. Michigan State? On a Sunday afternoon? With something momentous on the line again?

I hadn't been to a game like that in Assembly Hall in eons, for one reason or another, and it was cooler than jazz on ice. All those students raising giant head photos behind the basket -- how do you make a free throw, if you're the Spartans, when Tony Stewart and Bono and Ted the X-rated talking bear and the Geico gekko are staring you down? Or, for that matter, Harry Caray and Will Ferrell from "Elf"?

Looked a couple of doors down to my right at one point Sunday, and there was Barney the dinosaur. There, farther off, a sign waved: "Our Tom > Their Tom." And, because they're college kids, here came the chant "Gary s****!" when former Indiana All-Star Gary Harris, the prize who got away from Indiana and wound up in East Lansing, entered the game.

After which he preceded to strap 21 points on the Hoosiers. So, kids, a valuable lesson: You go lowbrow on someone, karma'll get ya.

In the end, of course, Indiana gave both karma and Michigan State the back of its hand, surviving 75-70 in as sterling a show as you're gonna get in late January. It sends Indiana into ts biggest week of the season -- at Purdue on Wednesday, and then likely No. 1 Michigan in the Hall on Saturday -- with an 18-2 record.

The last time Indiana was 18-2 was 1993, when the Hoosiers finished 31-4, won the Big Ten with a 17-1 record and lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight.

Oh, yeah: And they went 18-0 in Assembly Hall.

Barney would have been pleased.

Ben Smith's blog.