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Ben Smith

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IU: Forget loss, Ohio State awaits

– Dwell Time is down to minutes now, in this hard slog of a season. So at least they’ve got that going for them.

At least your Indiana Hoosiers, if they’re the basketball team the evidence suggests, have already shoved those three lost minutes in Champaign, Ill., down the memory hole and are on to the next thing.

Columbus, Ohio, boys and girls. Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft ’n’ them. Today.

As for Thursday night, well, the clock’s run out for dwelling on that. It was one of two things: The lousy karma that being ranked No. 1 has conferred on everyone this season, or just a kid who got caught in a switch, as happens dozens of times in every game.

Forget blaming Tom Crean for the last-second loss to a sputtering Illinois team; they had people guarded on the inbounds, but Yogi Ferrell got caught in a switch, no one else reacted fast enough, and Tyler Griffey got a hall pass to the rim for the only play that could have worked with 0.9 second showing.

It happens. It’s going to happen, every so often, in a Big Ten that’s as unforgiving this season as it perhaps has ever been.

“When you’re going against great talent, which this league is full of, you’ve got to stay committed to it for 40 minutes,” Crean said Thursday, and that is just about as right as it gets. “You’ve got to keep your chest in front of the ball, ... you’ve got to keep your communication high, ... and you’ve got to have that commitment to what makes you good, which for us is early help, early recovery and understanding what their strengths are.”

And understanding, too, that this year especially you don’t give anyone an out. If there’s a thread to be picked at here for the more neurotic IU fans, it’s the Hoosiers’ inclination to sometimes give back when they should be relentlessly taking.

And so Will Sheehey’s brain-dead taunting technical after a first-half dunk, which immediately gave back the two points he’d made. And so the 14 turnovers that led to 28 Illini points, negating 50 percent shooting and continuing a trend that made wins over Michigan and Michigan State far harder than they otherwise might have been.

Against the former, the Hoosiers gave up 21 points on 16 turnovers in a game in which they outrebounded Michigan 38-29 and shot 52 percent. Against the latter, they gave up a whopping 25 points on 16 kickaways.

“When we turn the ball over, we’re not very good,” Crean says. “The turnovers we’re making, there is no defense for it. Our guys were ready, they were prepared; they respect Illinois, there is no doubt about that. There was no overlooking or any of that. We just turned the ball over, and we didn’t stay committed to what we had to do at the end of the game.”

And no dwelling on any of that, because there’s no time. Ohio State is next, in Columbus, where Indiana has not won in five years and where it lost by 17 a year ago.

Move on. Take whatever lessons there are and move on, because the Hoosiers still have road games at No. 3 Michigan, No. 12 Michigan State and No. 18 Minnesota left, and that makes today a virtual must-win if they’re going to win the Big Ten.

“We can get a lot better,” Crean said. “My lens is improvement. That’s the lens I look at it through. I have to hope that we can get a group of guys on the team – the whole team – who will look at it through the same lens. That’s what the trick is.

“The teams that do that the best are the teams that are successful. You have to keep improving. You have to keep having the togetherness. You’ve got to play through mistakes. When you get a chance to put somebody away you’ve got to put them away.”

Class dismissed. Or back in session again, as the case may be.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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