BLOOMINGTON — In some ways, Indiana guard Josh Newkirk is going home.
In some ways.
The junior spent his first two seasons playing in the ACC for Pitt. Now, after a year of Big Ten battles, he gets another shot at Georgia Tech, and if it comes in the NIT rather than the NCAA, well, let others worry about that.
“It’s good to have some familiarity,” he said via quotes from an IU release. “I know they’ve been especially tough on their home court. We have to be sharp from the start.”
Specifically, sixth-seed Georgia Tech (17-15) beat NCAA tourney top-seed North Carolina, third-seed Florida State and fifth-seed Notre Dame at home. It is 14-4 at home.
Adding to the challenge, the third-seed Hoosiers (18-15) intentionally gave up a home game to play in Atlanta, citing spring break would mean students wouldn’t be around to boost attendance.
In other words, they didn't want to face the embarrassment that the story would be the low attendance in a game few fans want to see (in IU's last NIT appearance, a 2005 home loss to Vanderbilt, they barely drew 5,000) rather than than the on-court action.
Given they are just 2-8 on the road, and that this might have been the only NIT home game they would have gotten, it was a unique approach.
No other higher seed in the NIT gave up a home game.
Just when you think it can't get worse, it does.
Anyway, Newkirk said the Hoosiers insist they are ready to make the kind of run they couldn’t during the regular season, and last week’s Big Ten tourney.
If they don’t, the season is over.
“We want to continue to play,” Newkirk said. “We have a positive mindset and (want to) move forward.
“I feel we are playing real well. We want to make the most of this.”
Georgia Tech has lost five of its last seven games. Still, it went 8-10 in the ACC after being picked to finish last. That helped Josh Pastner earn ACC coach-of-the-year honors.
The Yellow Jackets are led by 6-10 junior forward Ben Lammers, the ACC defensive player of the year. One of the nation’s best shot blockers, he averaged 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Then there’s 6-9 senior forward Quinton Stephens, who averages 9.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. He also made 47 three-pointers.
“Their inside guys are very active and will battle you,” IU center De’Ron Davis said. “We have to do a great job of getting our position and keep them off the glass.”
Freshman guard Josh Okogie is a star in the making. He averages 15.5 points. Other backcourt contributors are senior Josh Heath and junior Tadric Jackson (11.8 points).
“I know they have one of the best defenses in the country,” IU guard Robert Johnson said, “and we have to move the ball and limit our mistakes.”
Added coach Tom Crean in the IU release: “Georgia Tech has gotten better all year long. Their defense is outstanding. They force you into tough spots.
“We have to have great ball movement and cutting. The last thing you want to do is stand around on offense.”
UP NEXT: Indiana (18-15) at Georgia Tech (17-15) in NIT
TIPOFF: 9 p.m., Tuesday
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