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Kid Crawford Shines for Depleted IU

Date story published: Sunday, December 9, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Sitting in the first row behind the Indiana bench, proud parents Joseph and Sylvia Crawford were easy to spot.

Joseph wore a red IU cap and a black sweatshirt that sported a blue UK insignia. "Somebody called me a cross dresser," he said with a smile.

Sylvia wore a Kentucky blue Christmas stocking hat and a red Indiana T-shirt. Because of how her sons impacted Indiana's 70-51 victory over Kentucky yesterday, she embraced and recoiled from what she witnessed. "Like joy and pain," she said.

Younger brother Jordan Crawford brought joy. With the starting backcourt sidelined, he led IU with a career-high 20 points and kept a remarkably steady hand (three turnovers in 39 minutes) on the Hoosiers' play.

It made riveting basketball theater that older brother Joe Crawford guarded him.

"It was weird because I've been watching him on TV," Jordan Crawford said. "Just to see him out there was kind of weird. I didn't think he'd take me. When he did, I gave him a smile and did my business."

Joe Crawford's struggles brought the pain. Not only did he miss his first five shots en route to a 4-for-15 afternoon, but the older brother also got hit with a technical foul to cap Kentucky's second-half unraveling. His failure to contain his younger brother led to the indignity of hearing the IU students chant "Jordan's better, Jordan's better" repeatedly.

"That hurt," he said. "But I just wanted to get back into the game. It's tough. I'm happy for my brother. He's learned a lot, and I'm happy for him. But I'm not happy with the way we played."

Kentucky came into the game off a gutty, if losing, effort against No. 1 North Carolina last weekend. Coach Billy Gillispie gushed about this past week's practices. "The best so far," he said.

Before tipoff, the Cats got an unbelievable break. Starting guards Eric Gordon (the team's leading scorer) and Armon Bassett (two-year starter and pre-season All-Big Ten selection) would not play for Indiana. Gordon's back still hurt from a fall against Tennessee State earlier in the week. Bassett was suspended for a violation of team rules.

Kentucky did not pounce. "We got outplayed," said freshman Patrick Patterson, who led UK with 15 points. "We got outhustled. We just played horrible."

Kentucky (4-3) never led despite IU center D.J. White's foul trouble limiting him to six first-half points. He finished with a double-double (16 points and 13 rebounds).

"They whipped us in every aspect and did it with a short-handed team," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said. "I don't take very well to that."

Jordan Crawford hit back-to-back three-pointers (banking the second one) to help put UK in catch-up mode. "I thought he played great," Gillispie said. "He plays with excitement and exuberance. He's a good player. And if he banks all the shots in there, he's going to be fantastic."

When Kentucky closed within seven, 32-25, late in the first half, Jordan Crawford made three of four free throws to help give Indiana a 37-25 hafltime lead.

A stumbling, bumbling start to the second half snuffed out any chance of a UK comeback. On their first five trips downcourt, the Cats saw Mark Coury charge, Michael Porter miss a layup, Ramon Harris throw away a pass seconds after entering the game, Coury put up the first three-point shot of his career with the deficit at 19, and then Joe Crawford contort his body to try to launch a shot in the lane contested by three defenders.

"We don't carry out assignments very well," Gillispie said. "We have to pay better attention and understand our margin of error is a bit small. ...

"I think the effort is getting better and better and better. Our understanding of the game needs to greatly increase."

Indiana (8-1) saw its lead crest at 53-30 on a Jordan Crawford pull-up jumper.

Less than a minute earlier, Joe Crawford received a technical foul after scoring on a drive.

"I made a stupid play," he said. "I should have never talked to the ref."

With Indiana playing without its starting guards, Kentucky could have presumed its first victory here since December of 1990.

"You could say, 'Wow, this ought to be easy,' " Gillispie said. "Till we get better at executing and taking advantage of opportunities, we're going to struggle no matter who we're playing."

For an example to follow, the Cats could look at Jordan Crawford. He took full advantage of his opportunity, which was all the sweeter because he was coming off a three-game suspension for violating team rules.

"I thought that he took his discipline like a man, and he practiced well," Indiana Coach Kelvin Sampson said. "If anything, I thought it helped him. Jordan was raring to go. He had a great week of practice, a super week of practice."

Joseph Crawford summed up this battle of shorthanded teams. When a reporter noted that UK played without two injured guards, Jodie Meeks and Derrick Jasper, Pappa Crawford nodded and said, "But Indiana's a little bit deeper. Their team is a little bit better this year."