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INDIANAPOLIS -- So Indiana got the Kentucky basketball sweep it wanted. It got the chance to make its best-ever all-star team statement.
Yes, that mattered.
“It shows that Indiana still has one of the best classes in the country,” guard Yogi Ferrell said. “Everyone thinks that. I think that.”
If Saturday night's 83-73 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse didn't prove it, it was close enough.
“We wanted to live up to the hype,” guard R.J. Hunter said.
With a roster that included nine players going to major conference teams, Indiana hype came hard and often. And after a 25-minute scare that produced a six-point deficit, these guys delivered.
“We didn't want to be known as the team to lose the streak,” Indiana Mr. Basketball Gary Harris said.
Indiana swept Kentucky for the 11th time since 1999 and for the fourth straight year. That's nine straight victories and 16 of the last 17, and if domination came with a struggle, the All Stars can live with that.
“We didn't want to let everyone down,” Ferrell said. “We wanted to live up to what everyone expected of us.”
They did it with balance. Harris, who is heading to Michigan State, had game-high totals of 17 points and five steals in 26 minutes to win player-of-the-game honors. Teammate Ron Patterson had 14 points and four rebounds. Hunter chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. Jeremy Hollowell just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Ferrell, who is heading to Indiana along with Patterson and Hollowell, struggled with 2-for-8 shooting for six points, but did have four assists and two steals. Purdue-bound Ronnie Johnson had seven points, five rebounds and four assists.
But mostly, they did it with defense that fueled a game-breaking 30-5 second-half run. They had 14 steals and forced 22 turnovers.
“Defense was the key,” Harris said. “We'd get steals, and then easy baskets on the other end.
"Right before we made that run, we knew we had to get stops. Once we did that, it got a lot easier for us.”
Of course, coach Craig Teagle had pushed defense the entire game. What kicked it into gear?
“We talked,” Harris said. “We knew where to be, and when to be.
“R.J. had like eight steals in a row (actually, he had three total). We were having fun.”
Yes, this group found defense as fun.
“It carried into our transition game,” Ferrell said. “We are an athletic, fast team. We want to get easy buckets. When we played defense, we got them. That was a lot of fun.”
Added Teagle: “They went through an eight- to 10-minute stretch where they played great defense. This group has got length, athleticism, skill. They played some great shut-down defense.”
Still, it was shooting struggles that prevented Indiana from getting early separation. After eight minutes Indiana was just 6-for-18 from the field to Kentucky's 7-for-13. The result was a 19-19 tie.
Indiana surged ahead 28-19. Kentucky surged back. And so it went. By halftime, with Kentucky's Jeril Taylor going 4-for-6 on three-pointers, the visitors led 41-40.
Poor free throw shooting kept Indiana in a hole for much of the second half (it finished the game just 11-for-25). Then, it staggered Kentucky with that 30-5 game-turning run to end the season and the high school experience.
For most of them, college starts this coming week.
“It was real special to play with high-major guys,” said Hunter, a mid-major guy set to play at Georgia State for his father, Ron Hunter, the former IUPU-Indianapolis coach. “They are real cool guys. They're not cocky at all. This was a great experience.”
Defeat couldn't shake Scott Krieger's enthusiasm for his girls' All-Star players.
Sure, they got hammered for the second straight night by a more talented Kentucky team, this time by a 92-75 score, but that didn't diminish the experience.
Krieger, the four-time state championship coach at Canterbury, praised his team's effort and quality of character.
“They're great kids,” he said.
In the end, it wasn't enough.
Kentucky Miss Basketball Sydney Moss, the daughter of NFL receiver Randy Moss, had her second straight double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to lead a powerful squad that out-gunned Indiana at basically every position.
Indiana got 13 points (on 3-for-4 shooting) from its Miss Basketball, Jessica Rupright of Norwell. That was 11 more points than she scored in Friday night's 75-47 loss in Louisville. She's signed with Miami of Ohio.
Snider's Akilah Sims added eight points and three rebounds. She averaged 10.0 points in the two All-Star games. She's headed to IUPUI.