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Indiana 80, Pepperdine 68

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ Instead of Bob Knight in a red sweater in front of the bench it was Mike Davis in a green suit and tie.

There was a much different atmosphere inside Assembly Hall on Tuesday night but it was another Indiana victory.

A new era of Hoosiers basketball began with an 80-68 victory over Pepperdine in the opening round of the Preseason NIT.

But everyone, especially Davis, could sense the difference that permeated Indiana's first game without Knight as head coach in 29 years.

``When I walked out, you know how sometimes when you're walking you can't feel your legs? That's how I felt,'' Davis said, referring to his stroll to bench and standing ovation about three minutes before tipoff. ``I'm kind of a quiet guy, a laid-back guy, so you try to act cool and play it off.

``I was hoping I didn't trip over the line when I got to the bench.''

He didn't, but neither could he completely avoid the long shadow of Knight, who was on a hunting trip in Spain with King Juan Carlos, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and former President George Bush.

A little more than two months after Knight, the fifth-winningest coach in Division I history and the man who led the Hoosiers to three national championships, was fired for violating the university's ``zero-tolerance'' policy, Indiana started anew.

And the Hoosiers unveiled a more up-tempo style, a slight departure from Knight's disciplined motion offense.

``I want to play up tempo, I want to get up and down the floor,'' Davis said. ``I want to run and run hard.''

The result was five turnovers in its first seven possessions, but Indiana recovered and beat Pepperdine at its own game, leading 40-36 at halftime and then using an 11-0 run midway through the second half to build a 67-51 lead and pull away to advance to Friday night's quarterfinals against South Alabama.

Kirk Haston led the Hoosiers by matching his career-high with 28 points.

``I think we were all a little nervous, you could see it at the beginning,'' said guard Dane Fife, who helped settle down the Hoosiers midway through the first half. ``We were scrambling around on the floor. It most definitely had to do with everything surrounding it and that it was the first game.''

But Knight and his legacy were far from forgotten Tuesday night.

The Hoosiers were competing in the Preseason NIT, a tournament Knight long revered, playing Pepperdine, the team that handed Indiana a 20-point loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March in what turned out to be his final game as the Hoosiers coach.

Fans wore T-shirts emblazoned across the front with ``Hoosier Daddy Now?'' a reference to an incident in which Knight criticized the Northwestern band for shouting ``Who's your daddy?'' at the Hoosiers bench two seasons ago. Across the back the words read ``Goodnight General The Day A Legend Died: Sept. 10, 2000.''

One fan, Davis' wife, Tamilya, hoped the victory would being some closure to the situation.

``Now that we've had this, our first official game, it's starting to feel like, maybe, it's our season,'' she said. ``Maybe people won't keep bringing up the past and will get behind our boys.''

Some of the changes were obvious, though.

``What is new is looking over there and not seeing a red sweater, not watching him walk across the floor with about 30 seconds left, not watching him walk over to the other coach and getting him laughing,'' said Don Fischer, the Hoosiers' radio voice for all but two of Knight's seasons.

``I will miss some things about Coach Knight being here, I'm sure about that. But this is a whole new era starting, and it's something to be excited about, too.''

Even if it didn't appear that way initially as Assembly Hall, which is usually filled near capacity, was not. There were about 5,000 empty seats.

That didn't matter to the Hoosiers.

Davis did manage to get in a couple of tongue-lashings and reveal a more demonstrative side like when he called a timeout with 4:55 remaining after Pepperdine had gotten within 67-59.

``Our guys were just too tense and that's understandable. They've been through a lot, a whole lot emotionally,'' Davis said. ``They're young and they don't understand there's still a basketball game to be played no matter whether your mother's sick or your brother's sick or whatever. You have to go out and perform because there are so many people supporting Indiana basketball and they want a good performance.

``It wasn't a good performance (Tuesday) night, but it was a win, and as a coach I'll take a win.''

Davis gets his next chance Friday when the Hoosiers play host to South Alabama, which is coached by Bob Weltlich _ another Knight disciple.

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