Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Steps: Growing Pains over, Hoosiers Could Do Harm

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Steps: Growing Pains over, Hoosiers Could Do Harm

Article excerpt

Here's Bob Knight on Norm Stewart: "Over the years, I've really liked him," Knight said Wednesday. "I've been good friends with him for a long time."

And, here's Knight on Stewart's coaching: "I don't think he goes about it much differently than I do. Our teams play good defense, and they play hard. Norm has won a lot of basketball games. A lot of games. That speaks for itself."

Knight is the Indiana basketball coach and icon; Stewart is the Missouri legend. They have each won 659 games, ruling from their Midwest empires. But in a quirk of basketball history, in defiance of territorial proximity, the masters never have coached against each other.

"Unusual," Knight said in a telephone interview with the Post-Dispatch. "But these things happen."

That will change at 6:50 Friday night in Boise, Idaho, when Indiana meets Missouri in a first-round NCAA Tournament game.

Knight's Hoosiers are a curious, seemingly dangerous entry in the 64-team NCAA field. Knight has won three national titles and 11 Big Ten Conference championships in 24 seasons at Indiana. He's been named national coach of the year three times. His NCAA Tournament record is 50-18.

On the surface, Indiana's 19-11 overall record - 11-7 in the Big Ten - is nothing special. And certainly not by Hoosier standards. Indiana, favored to win the Big Ten, finished tied for third with Michigan.

After 22 games, IU was only 13-9 overall, 5-5 in the conference. A frustrated Knight dropped hints that he was considering retirement. The kids - four freshmen who played liberally - were making the 54-year-old-coach see a brighter shade of Indiana red.

"If I get too tired, I won't fight it," Knight said recently. "I will not be part of a team that cannot be competitive."

Beware, Mizzou: Indiana has won six of its last eight games.

The lessons are being assimilated. The 3-point shots are falling. The young guards are moving the ball up the court faster, making crisper decisions.

Knight said the freshmen have "a chance to be OK. …

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