Hoosiers hammer Cats behind Jordan Crawford’s 20 points

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For the first time in its short seven-game season, UK got a chance to break out its blue road uniforms. No color was more appropriate Saturday afternoon, as UK’s trip to Indiana left the Cats feeling exactly that — blue.

The No. 15 Hoosiers knocked off UK 70-51 in front of 17,410 fans at Assembly Hall despite playing without star freshman Eric Gordon, senior A.J. Ratliff and sophomore Armon Bassett, three of the Hoosiers’ top guards.

“I think people say, ‘Wow, this ought to be easy,’ ” head coach Billy Gillispie said. “But until we get better at executing and taking advantage of opportunities, we’re going to struggle no matter who we play against.”

After losing to North Carolina on Dec. 1, UK players said they thought they had a great chance to win in Indiana. But the stat sheet showed a UK team that was a long way from competing with the Hoosiers.

UK (4-3) shot just 38.8 percent, turned the ball over 19 times and was out-rebounded 37-29.

“It was a tough game for us,” Gillispie said. “They whipped us in every aspect. We’ve got such a long ways to go in every aspect, but I think we’re going to get there.”

The battle was billed as a series of intriguing matchups, but most failed to live up to the hype. The matchup between the Crawford brothers — UK’s Joe and IU’s Jordan — was lopsided. Jordan Crawford, a freshman guard, led IU with 20 points, while Joe Crawford, a senior guard, went just 4-for-15 from the field and scored 10 points.

Joe Crawford called the meeting a “once in a lifetime chance” on Thursday, but the dream meeting with his younger brother quickly turned into a nightmare. Joe Crawford missed his first five field goals and didn’t score until the 3:03 mark in the first half. Meanwhile, IU fans took every chance to chant “Jordan’s better.”

“It was tough,” Joe Crawford said. “I’m happy for my brother. But it’s real disappointing, the way we played.”

The other major battles, both involving UK freshman forward Patrick Patterson, never materialized. Patterson had been spectacular through six games this season but hadn’t earned the same praise as IU freshman guard — and leading scorer — Eric Gordon. But Gordon, who averages 24.3 points per game, didn’t play because of a tailbone injury suffered earlier in the week.

And Patterson’s matchup with Indiana senior forward D.J. White was hardly noticed. White drew two fouls early in the first half and played only 10 first-half minutes, and the two spent much of the day guarding other players.

Patterson once again proved he was UK’s best scoring option — the freshman scored 15 points to lead the Cats — and after the game, Gillispie again said the Cats need to get him the ball more.

“We have to throw the ball inside to Patterson more,” Gillispie said. “We’re going to start getting it in there, and we’re going to live and die with the freshman.”

Patterson didn’t agree with his coach’s assessment of his play.

“I played horrible,” Patterson said. “We all played horrible.”

UK was down 17-13 with 9:25 to go in the first half, but a 14-4 IU run pushed the lead to 31-17, Indiana’s biggest lead of the half. The Cats fought back later, cutting the lead to seven points with an 8-1 run of their own just 1:49 before the half. But the Hoosiers pushed the lead to 37-25, and the Cats never came closer.

Indiana blitzed UK at the start of the half, scoring the first nine points of the half and stretching the lead to 46-25 just 4:01 into the half. The Hoosiers cruised to an easy victory after that.

Gillispie said last week that the Cats need to eliminate distractions if they want to improve. But without a game until Saturday, finals week may be just the distraction the Cats need. Senior guard Ramel Bradley said UK needs to put its trip to Bloomington in the rearview mirror and move on.

“We need to stop thinking about this loss and look forward,” Bradley said.