BOZICH | Kentucky's nobodies punish Indiana's 4-stars, 100-89
Indiana was supposed to roll to another win over Kentucky Friday night but that's not how the annual all-star game unfolded at Bellarmine.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — It was the first of 160 shots taken in the Kentucky-Indiana all-star game Friday at Bellarmine’s Knights Hall.
But it was launched by Romeo Langford, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball. It was a three-point shot, a signature feature on the Langford menu.
And it was an air ball.
Just a two-second clip from a 40-minute ordeal but it served as a clue to what unfolded during Kentucky’s jarring 100-89 victory over Indiana in the opening game of the boys’ series that will conclude Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Indiana air-balled its way to an 11-point loss in the game the Hoosiers were expected to win by 11 — or more.
A team that started five guys who have signed scholarships at Big Ten programs lost decisively to a team that did not start anybody with a scholarship to a Power Five program.
The Kentucky Nobodies handled the Indiana 4-stars. Jumped ahead 9-1. Lost the lead briefly midway through the first half. Moved back ahead by nine at halftime. Never in doubt after that.
“We got it handed to us,” Indiana coach Jim Shannon said.
Langford did not make a shot from distance in nearly 33 minutes. Markello Sullivan of Fairdale High School made five of nine. Langford is a McDonald’s all-American, the signature recruit in Archie Miller’s Top 10 class at IU. Sullivan is bound for Moberly (Mo.) Community College, who is hopeful somebody will offer him a Division I scholarship in two years.
Sullivan carried away the game MVP trophy with 28 points. Skyelar Potter of Warren Central was the only player to deliver a double-double, contributing 19 points and 12 rebounds. He will play for Wright State.
“We knew we had a bunch of haters and people were against us,” said Trevon Faulkner, Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball. “That’s probably why we came out strong and wanted to win this game. To show people we’re not bums.
“I felt like from the jump we were more aggressive. From the locker room, we had a good mindset.”
That is the same thing that Shannon saw. One team scrambled for every loose ball. The other team looked like it wanted to be watching the Cavaliers-Warriors’ game.
“I certainly thought at times they played harder,” Shannon said. “I thought we got out hustled on some plays.
“They had a couple of kids who got after it. They were really getting to the rim and scoring. They got a lot of uncontested shots tonight, like where were we?”
It was not Langford’s best performance. He missed all six shots from distance. He missed four of nine free throws. His two assists were balanced by two turnovers.
Despite all that, he still led Indiana with 17 points.
“We didn’t play hard,” Langford said.
The entire game?
“The score shows that,” he said. “It needs to change. We need to dig down deep in ourselves and get over our pride and playing time and play as a team.”
How important was the first-possession air ball?
Ask Kentucky coach Scott Chalk.
“That was important,” he said. “Getting off to a good start sometimes. No matter how good a player you are, you don’t see the ball go through the basket early and you start to question things and kind of slow down a little bit.”
But it was more than simply the first shot. Kentucky played like a team that was tired of hearing about how superior Indiana was supposed to be. Defense is usually an elective in an all-star game. Kentucky didn’t treat it like an elective.
“Really we just guarded him,” Faulkner said. “I wasn’t trying to get in his head. I was just trying to play good defense on him. That’s basketball. That’s just me being physical. It wasn’t nothing personal.”
“It was part of the plan,” Sullivan said. :”We knew if we came out and played hard and got physical that we could stop Romeo. I’d say we got in his head a little bit with the physicality.”
Did Langford think the Kentucky defense was physical?
“Everybody’s game plan is that,” he said.
Shannon does not expect the situation to unfold the same way Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. None of his Big Ten recruits played to their hype.
Point guard Robert Phinisee had 11 points but no assists. Wing Damezi Anderson missed six of eight shots and finished with four points. Those two will play with Langford at IU. Aaron Henry, a Michigan State recruit, finished with six points. Guard Eric Hunter, who is bound for Purdue, made two late threes for 10 points.
“I think we’ll shoot a lot more free throws in Indianapolis,” Shannon said. “I can assure you of that.”
Indiana had won 17 straight games in this series. Critics suggested changing the format, perhaps matching Indiana against Illinois or Ohio.
Now Kentucky has won two straight. I asked Chalk if the series has gotten too one-sided?
“We feel pretty good about that,” he said. :”Obviously it’s about playing as a team and caring. We felt like we got them motivated, they played like it mattered.”
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