The horn sounded with 10:57 left in the first half of Indiana's exhibition game against Indiana Wesleyan Thursday night. IU junior guard Maurice Creek checked in to the game to a standing ovation. Seconds later the crowd chanted his name as Creek played his first college basketball game since January 15, 2011.
"It was a great, great reaction," Creek said of the reception he received at Assembly Hall. "That's big time. That's love. I can do nothing but thank them. I appreciate everyone that stood up for me."
Creek missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles heel. He missed the second half of the 2010-11 season after suffering a stress fracture in his knee. He also suffered a season ending injury after starting the first 12 games as a freshman.
"It was emotional watching the crowd react to him," said Indiana coach Tom Crean. "I don't think any of us take for granted that have lived with him the fact how special it is that he's back out there. It's been a long road. He's earned it."
The crowd roared again when Creek drove to the basket and made his first shot. Creek played 15 minutes and finished the game with a team-high 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting to lead the Hoosiers to an 86-57 win over Indiana Wesleyan.
"It felt like a long time," said Creek with a chuckle after the game. "But I got to this point and I'm glad that I could feel the game again. It felt great. It's something I always wanted. I put in the work and these guys helped me get back on the floor."
Creek's third comeback from injury in his college career highlighted the debut of the top-ranked Hoosiers in their only exhibition game.
"It's fantastic," said junior forward Will Sheehy, one of five Hoosiers who scored in double figures. "The guy has put in the work. He has done the rehab. For a night like him to play well, it pays off. We're looking forward to him playing well all season."
IU opens the regular season November 9 against Bryant at 8:00 p.m. at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers play three non-conference games on neutral courts, but do not play a true road game until their Big Ten opener at Iowa December 31.