Barnes has special time in Indiana

“OH my gosh, that is so freggin’ cool.” That’s how I started a conversation with Youngstown State University women’s basketball coach John Barnes.

Circumstances took his team to the famed Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis.

If you ever watched the movie Hoosiers, you know why I’m getting geeked up over this column. If not, watch the movie and you’ll understand my excitement.

Barnes has a picture of himself shooting where the main character, Jimmy Chitwood, shot the long-range, game-winning shot of the fictional Hickory Huskers. There’s a whole backstory on the real team and one-liners from the movie. Yada, yada, yada… watch the movie and Google search.

“That was more of shooting around to the spot where he shot it, get a picture of it that I can keep for a while,” Barnes said.

You bet I’d frame that one. That’s a bucket-list experience for me, and maybe some of you reading this feel the same.

The YSU team wanted to practice at UIC’s gym in Chicago prior to last Sunday’s noon tipoff. The best they could do is in an auxiliary gym at 6 p.m., Saturday.

Barnes called his friend, Butler women’s basketball coach Kurt Godlevske, to see if the YSU team could practice at the famed Hinkle Fieldhouse since YSU was in Indianapolis and played IUPUI the night before. The Penguins wanted to get a feel for playing on UIC’s home floor before the game, something teams do prior to road contests.

Yeah, I would’ve went there in the first place. It was the perfect storm for YSU as the Butler’s men’s team was out of town and the women’s team played on Friday. The Penguins practiced last Saturday afternoon around 1-2 p.m.

The urge to shout something overcame a few of the team as they entered Hinkle.

“I did hear a few Hickorys being yelled as we were coming in,” Barnes said.

Cool. Very cool.

The next day, Sunday, YSU overcame a 20-point loss to IUPUI and beat UIC soundly for the season sweep. It was Barnes’ 100th win at YSU.

He can’t believe how fast six seasons have went and the support he’s had from players, assistants and administration.

“It takes a lot of people, good people to be involved to get to 100 wins,” Barnes said.

YSU (18-6, 10-3 Horizon League) is looking for two more wins starting tonight against Green Bay (15-7, 10-2) and Sunday versus Milwaukee (11-12, 6-6). Green Bay is half-game ahead of YSU for second place, while Wright State (19-6, 11-2) is in first. The top four teams at the end of the regular season host first-round tournament games. That’s what YSU wants, two wins and to honor seniors Melinda Trimmer, Alison Smolinski and Sarah Cash in the proper manner as the three will play their last regular-season home game on Sunday against Milwaukee.

“It would be a great way to send them out with a couple of wins,” said Barnes, whose team is 13-1 at the Beeghly Center.

These are big games, but it doesn’t compare to Barnes’ experience in Indianapolis. Wow, that’s cool. I can’t wait until the Horizon League Championship moves to Indianapolis next season. Soaking up all that is Hoosiers (not Indiana University) is on my radar. Why not those Hoosiers? Bitterness still remain from IU beating Kent State (my alma mater) for a Final Four spot in 2002 and Syracuse (my other team) in 1987 for the NCAA Championship.

It still doesn’t compare to the ill will I have for former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway. The drive, fumble. Stop. Breathe. Let’s get back to my happy place. For Barnes, it was Hinkle Fieldhouse.

“It was very cool,” Barnes said. “This was kind of the sad thing, most of the players had never seen Hoosiers. They didn’t know anything about where they were practicing or shooting or whatever. It was more fun for the coaches and the staff and those of us who knew all about it.”

Those are memories he and his staff won’t soon forget.


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