Thursday, March 15, 2001

IU's Haston gets another chance

The Indianapolis Star

        SAN DIEGO — It has taken Kirk Haston every bit of a year to get over the disappointment of his last NCAA tournament experience.

        As the Indiana Hoosiers open play Thursday night in first round action against Kent State, Haston can't help but recall the 2000 tournament. Indiana, a sixth seed in the East last year, opened against No. 11 seed Pepperdine in Buffalo, N.Y.

        The game had special meaning for Haston because Pepperdine's coach is Jan van Breda Kolff. When van Breda Kolff was at Vanderbilt in Haston's home state of Tennessee, the coach basically told Haston he didn't think he was good enough to play at this level.

        Haston, who averaged 15.3 points per game last year, couldn't wait to prove the coach wrong.

        He knocked down his first shot, a perimeter jumper, to give Indiana a 2-0 lead. Just over a minute later, however, Haston tore cartilage in his knee and sprained the lateral collateral ligament as well.

        End of game. End of season. End of showing a coach that he was wrong.

        Indiana went on to lose 77-57, and Haston could do little more than watch from the end of the bench with his leg elevated in a traction-like state.

        “It was just heartbreaking to sit there and realize that you weren't going to be a part of the NCAA tournament,” he said. “That's the whole reason you play at this level is for this time of year.

        “And then to sit there and watch their players celebrate after every made basket and realize what the offseason was going to be like just getting myself back in shape to play, that was extremely difficult.”

        As No. 20 Indiana (21-12), the fourth seed in the West Region, prepares to take on 13th-seeded Kent State (23-9) at Cox Arena on the campus of San Diego State University, Haston again feels like he has something to prove.

        This time, the motivation has been provided by the Iowa Hawkeyes. In the Big Ten tournament championship game Sunday, Iowa snapped Indiana's five-game winning streak with a 63-61 victory.

        Haston made just 9-of-22 shots from the field, including a 1-of-6 performance from beyond the three-point arc.

        “I want to really make up for this past loss against Iowa,” Haston said. “You can try to move on as much as possible but until you play that next game, or the next couple of games, it's just really hard to get over that one.”

        One would think a Kent State team that starts four players 6-5 or under would be the perfect remedy for an Indiana squad trying to get over a tough loss.

        Indiana starts three players 6-9 or taller. And it has bounced back with a win following six of its last seven losses.

        But Haston, who is averaging 18.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, isn't sure what to expect.

        “A lot of times when you play teams that are so guard-oriented, they just collapse the post so much, they actually force the guards to beat them,” Haston said. “From looking at it right now, we hope to be able to take advantage of the inside game.”

        Indiana coach Mike Davis believes it's all a matter of the Hoosiers going out and playing their kind of game. If that happens, he thinks they'll be fine.

        “This team wants to play more games, you can really see it in their eyes and feel it in their actions,” Davis said. “We just have to be ready to play, that's the main thing. We can't think about anything else except playing Kent State.”

        As for the height advantage, Davis compares the situation to Indiana's matchup with Purdue.

        “When we played Purdue, we had a size advantage but their guards were really good off the dribble,” Davis said. “So we have to make sure we contain them and just give them one shot.”

        One of the reasons for Davis' optimism of late has been Indiana's play at the end of the season. It has won nine of its last 12. That's the best 12-game stretch entering the NCAA tournament since 1992-93, when the Hoosiers went 11-1. In the past four years, the best mark was 7-5.

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