Taking the next step

Hoops team may just be as good as advertised

It’s not every day that the Bulldogs take a Division I school to overtime, let alone one of the most storied programs in college basketball history.

But that’s exactly what the Bulldogs did against Indiana. That’s right, Ferris almost took down a Big Ten team that was in the national title game in 2002. Granted, the Hoosiers have seen better days, as they’ve compiled a 16-46 record under head coach Tom Crean since his arrival in 2008 after turning Marquette University into a contender.

The Bulldogs led by 10 points with three minutes left in the contest, but the Hoosiers battled back to take the game to overtime after Ferris junior forward Jerrell Sanders had his game-winning jumper waved off after a replay. Indiana ended up taking the game 78-65.

Though leaving with a win would have been the desired outcome for the Bulldogs, the opportunity to play at one of the most storied venues in college basketball, Assembly Hall, was an exciting experience that the team seemed to savor as I talked to players and coaches before the game. We’re talking about a place where legends like Isiah Thomas dominated the competition and Bob Knight hurled chairs across the floor.

“It’s such a luxury for us to be able to play Division I schools to get the experience against competition like this,” said Ferris head coach Bill Sall. “But having the opportunity to walk into a place like Assembly Hall and see all of the banners and the history behind it, it’s a cool thing for our program and for our players and coaches.”

The opportunity to play at Indiana wasn’t lost on the players either.

“It really shows how far we’ve come as a program and it gives us an opportunity to show that we can compete with a D-I program and give us a chance to gain exposure on a bigger stage,” said sophomore forward Daniel Sutherlin.

With all of the hoopla over playing at Indiana, I think the biggest lesson that can be taken out of this game is that this year might be an exciting year for the Bulldogs on the hardcourt.

Yes, I know it was only an exhibition game. But from talking with the players and coaches at the start of the season, you get the feeling the team is ready to take the next step and get into the national tournament.

It’s nice to see that for once at Ferris. With every year I’ve spent at Ferris, it seems like the teams tend to have high expectations entering the season before falling flat during the year.

So the men’s basketball team has a chance to ride the momentum heading into this year. Let’s see if it happens. Maybe Ferris will be able to hang a few banners of its own for once and Wink Arena can start looking like Assembly Hall. n