INDIANA BASKETBALL MOMENTS- The Best and Worst Since the Last Championship (Updated for 2013)

IU_logo

THE MOST MEMORABLE WINS

#9: Indiana 87, San Diego State 83, 2006

Mike Davis was on his way out, but this one was quite sweet even as the program looked to restructure, blissfully unaware of what the future what hold only a ahort three years later after a disastrous hire. Nevertheless, after being outplayed for much of the game and trailing 83-82 with 40 seconds to go, Marshall Stickland made a great defensive play that resulted in an over-and-back call on the Aztecs. After the timeout, Robert Vaden drained a three to give the Hoosiers an 85-83 lead that they would not relinquish. Although they would go on to lose to Gonzaga two nights later, this win felt fantastic coming off of two consecutive tourney absences, the first time that had happened since the last championship. We would get our revenge on Gonzaga in the first round the following year, but it would be a painful five year wait until the next tournament win.

#8: Indiana 63, VCU 61, 2012

This was, for the most part, a wild, frustrating game against a tough defensive squad in VCU that created a season high 22 turnovers and led this game by 9 points on two separate occassions. Thanks to the tempo of the game going against the Hoosiers’ preferences, such a deficit seemed almost insurmountable. However, on the first occassion, near the end of the half, Christian Watford was able to rattle off two three pointers and convert on an and-one to bring us back, and later in the game, we were able to hang around just close enough. Trailing by 3 with under a minute and with VCU at the line, Victor Oladipo, in a moment that would foreshadow what was to come the following season, grabbed the rebound and went coast to coast, and converted on a tying three point play. VCU ran the shot clock down on the next possession but solid IU defense forced a contested three, which Oladipo again grabbed, pushed back up the floor and passed (or had his shot blocked, but whatever) to Will Sheehey, who spotted up and drained an easy 12 foot jumper with just under 13 seconds to play. VCU had an open look for the win, but another three point miss was hauled in by the Hoosiers, who were off to their first Sweet 16 in ten years, and were officially, once and for all, back.

#7: Indiana 59- Michigan State 58, 2001

This was the defining moment of Mike Davis’ first full year at the helm, as the Hoosiers knocked off the #1 ranked Michigan State Spartans. It was the first #1 ranked team Indiana had beaten since 1993 when they knocked off the hated Kentucky Wildcats. However, this game provided a brief sigh of relief for fans still enraged by Bob Knight’s firing. Trailing by two with the ball, Davis drew up a play to go for the win rather than send the game into overtime at home, a plan that could have easily backfired. Instead, junior Kirk Haston knocked down a three pointer at the buzzer and bedlam ensued as fans stormed the court. Probably the most memorable aspect of this moment, however, was Davis’ reaction, as he dropped to his knees in a combination of relief, disbelief, and probably thankful prayer.

#6: Indiana 76- Michigan 75, 1989

It is easy to forget what a great player Jay Edwards was in his brief time with the Hoosiers, but this was the defining moment of his career. Trailing by two against a Michigan team that would go on to win the National Championship that year, Edwards just barely beat the clock on a three pointer that was nothing but net, and Indiana walked away with a huge victory. This might be the only victory where Coach Knight showed so much genuine emotion at the moment the shot went in; it was a rare occasion indeed to see the General jumping up and down after a win. When I met Edwards a few years back at a bar in the South Loop, I immediately mentioned that this game was one of the high points of my entire childhood, and told him how upset I was when he decided to leave after his sophomore season. He admitted that he regretted that decision, and had nothing but good things to say about Knight.

#5: Indiana 73- Oklahoma 64, 2002

Does everyone remember how overmatched Indiana was coming into this game? I can’t think of a single analyst that picked them, and for good reason; Oklahoma was many people’s choice to win it all, and Indiana was coming in as a big underdog and seeded #5 in the South Regional. But those of us who believed knew that the Hoosiers had one last miracle left in them during their furious charge to the championship game in 2002. Worthy of note is the fact that Indiana actually trailed by four at the half, but went 8-13 from three point land on the game, a statistic that was key to their success throughout their tournament run. Over a decade later, it is still tough to believe we were heading to the National Championship for the sixth time in history following this unlikely upset.

#4: Indiana 106- UCLA 79, 1992


Bob Knight didn’t know it at the time, but after winning this game, he would make his last trip to the Final Four. Only five years removed from a championship, this was still an incredibly difficult game for a young but talented Indiana team that was just hitting its stride. UCLA had easily beaten the Hoosiers in the preseason, but IU turned the tables this time, and blasted the Bruins 106-79 after putting up a whopping 62 points in the second half. I was in Orlando, Florida with my family visiting Disney World, and I couldn’t ever remember having more fun watching an IU game at any point in my life up to that point. The combination of the significance of the game, the decisiveness of the win, and the fact that I didn’t expect a win in the first place make this game one of the most memorable. It is worthy to note that in November of the same season, the Bruins crushed the Hoosiers, which made turning the tables in such decisive fashion with a trip to the Final Four on the line even more sweet.

#3: Indiana 72- Michigan 71, 2013

It was a very tough call to put this victory ahead of tournament wins that put us in the National Championship and Final Four respectively, but the circumstances of this game and the amount of years it had taken to realize what this win accomplished (20) places it higher on this list simply because of the two decade drought it watered. In 1992, Indiana had been to the Final Four just five years earlier, and the trip to the Final Game in 2002 broke a 15 year drought. But this improbable, heart-stopping win over Michigan clinched the Big Ten regular season title outright for the first time in 20 years, and was the ultimate coronation for a group of players and coaches that had been through hell and literally went from the bottom to the top in what was arguably the strongest edition of the Big Ten conference in its storied history. Trailing by five points with under a minute left, the Hoosiers took advantage of two front end misses at the line by the Wolverines, and played smart, efficient offense. Cody Zeller scored the final six points for the one point win as the team efficiently exploited the mismatch down low in the final minute. Zeller also hit two crucial free throws before hitting the shot that would be the eventual game winner. To add to the drama, Michigan had two very legitimate shots to win game, trailing by one with under ten seconds to play. All-American point guard Trey Burke’s runner missed long, but Jordan Morgan’s tip in rolled in and around the rim for what seemed like an eternity before sweet gravity finally overcame it and Christian Watford came up with the game-saving rebound. I haven’t reacted to a win this wildly, well, maybe ever. As the years pass, it will probably be forgotten that these Hoosiers had the chance to clinch the outright conference title on their home court on senior night against an Ohio State team they had beaten handily in Columbus just three weeks earlier. Indiana lost that game, but cut the nets down anyway. And it was only fitting that a group that stuck together and endured such misery in its first few years together would have to earn this the hard way on the road in Ann Arbor in the most unlikely fashion conceivable.

#2: Indiana 73- Kentucky 72, 2011

In terms of pure shock value, this should probably be number one. Coming off a ten win season, the unranked and overlooked Hoosiers battled the top-ranked and eventual National Champion Kentucky Wildcats in Assembly Hall. Behind a raucous, rejuvinated home crowd, the Hoosiers built a ten point lead midway through the second half behind hot shooting, smart passing and solid defense. Outmatched from a talent perspective, Indiana would give away that double digit lead late as they failed to get stops down the stretch and the offense turned cold. After hitting two free throws, Kentucky held a two point lead with under ten seconds to play, and had fouls to give. In a mental lapse, they failed to get that foul to stop the clock, and Verdell Jones split the defense before unselfishly dishing the ball to a trailing Christian Watford, who knocked down a three pointer at the buzzer for the win. Bedlam ensued  on the court, and Indiana was officially back. We would lose a hard fought offensive onslaught to this same rival in the Sweet 16 round of the tournament three months later, but there is no way to measure the impact that this win had on the program. It was a preseason game that should have had no real bearing on the future trajectory of the team, but instead, it instilled a confidence and left a legacy that will likely never be forgotten. The Hoosiers would go on to knock off another top ranked team at home in the weeks that followed, and carried its momentum into the tournament for its first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade.

#1: Indiana 74- Duke 73, 2002

This was the game that I will always remember most of any game I have ever seen Indiana play. The win here catapulted the Hoosiers into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1993 in stunning fashion over the #1 team in the country. At the time, we were all happy just be back in the Sweet Sixteen, and didn’t hold much hope for a win, especially after falling behind 26-8 early. But what made this game so special was the way that we came back; slowly but surely, we chipped away at the lead with threes and smart inside play, and all of a sudden, we were only down by one point with five minutes to play, and then it hit me- we could actually steal this game! The very thought was almost too much to bear, but inched closer to reality when Tom Coverdale hit a layup to take a 72-70 lead with under a minute to play. It was almost happening too quickly to comprehend, but there it was, clear as day- if Duke didn’t score again, Indiana would win the game in an astonishing comeback. But I’d watched way too many IU games over the years to come anywhere near celebration mode quite yet, so instead I braced for the final seconds, which passed like an eternity.

The drama was at full throttle. After we got a huge defensive stop, a near over-and-back on the inbounds saved by Dane Fife resulted in a fortunate foul call on Duke. A.J. Moye knocked down two free throws, and with 11 seconds to play, IU led 74-70. Now, the celebration could begin, right? Not so fast. Any other coach would have essentially pulled his team off the court at this point, but not Davis- the team played defense way too aggressively after failing to retrieve the offensive rebound on Duke’s first missed three and fouled the nation’s best player, Jason Williams, as he drained a three with 4 seconds remaining. Williams, a 90% free throw shooter, needed only to make one free throw to send the game into overtime, which to me would have meant almost certain defeat for the Hoosiers. I was absolutely beside myself, sick to my stomach, but what happened next was nearly an even worse scenario. Somehow, Williams missed the free throw, but in a horrific development, Carlos Boozer out-rebounded Jared Jeffries and threw up a desperation shot that was well within the realm of his accuracy. Now instead of overtime, we were looking at losing the game outright in regulation!! The time that it took for the ball to leave Boozer’s hand until it banked out of the hoop must have taken a year, and Jeff Newton pulled down the rebound as time expired. Then, bedlam set in, as we realized that it was actually, finally, over, and the first of many celebrations on Kirkwood Avenue that spring was the most memorable moment of my senior year, and of the last 25 Indiana seasons. Ironically, it is the same score that gave Indiana their last national title in 1987 over Syracuse in an equally enthralling finish.

THE MOST GUTWRENCHING LOSSES (watch if you can bear)

#8: Charlotte 74 , Indiana 73, 2004

This is what we refer to as a “sky-is-falling” loss. Not only was the fact that the refs allowed this halfcourt shot to count utter and complete bullshit, but the shot effectively ended the season for the Hoosiers before it had even begun. Three days before Christmas, we were an unimaginable 2-6 and on a six game losing streak. Indiana would ultimately miss the tournament for the second straight year, which was an absolute abomination considering the prior year’s absence was the first since I had ever watched or cared about them. I still watch this replay in anger waiting for the officials to reverse the call all these years later. What ended up making this loss even worse is that the team rallied in the Big Ten season, going 10-6 to finish 4th, but it was too little too late. I have always argued that had this game been rightly awarded as a Hoosier victory, we would have made the tournament that year. The differences between a 15-13 and a 16-12 record are vast. (Don’t ask me why they only played 11 non-conference games, and a first round thrashing at the hands of Minnesota in the Big Ten Tourney didn’t help either.)

#7: Iowa 62, Indiana 60, 2002

Iowa v Indiana X

I had to do a bit of research to recall why exactly this was as painful as it was. The way I had remembered it, IU had lost to Iowa in the 2001 Big Ten Championship on a last second shot by Luke Recker. But that’s not how it happened. In 2001, (our only appearance in the Big Ten title game in 15 tries), we led most of the game but gave way late, and it was actually Kirk Haston who had a potential game winning three point shot blocked. That’s what made this game so much infinitely worse, even though it was only a semifinal contest the second time around. Former Indiana Mr. Basketball Luke Recker, who had made the unprecedented move of transfering from the Hoosiers to an interconference rival, sank a three pointer at the buzzer. Not only did the Hawkeyes put us down for the second straight year, this time, they had done it with one of our own. Absolutely brutal. This one would rank much higher were it not for the fact that the loss apparently lit a fire in this team that made my senior year of college a pretty fun spring after all…

#6: Illinois 74, Indiana 72, 2013

Admittedly, at the time, this seemed like a sky-is-falling loss which turned out to not be the case. In fact, one could argue the utterly brutal specifics of this loss lit a fire under this team that would lead to successive road wins against much tougher teams in Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. But with the bitterness of the rivalry between these two schools still fresh despite Bruce Weber’s departure, this was an incredibly tough pill to swallow for die-hard fans. I for one didn’t sleep for at least a couple of days. While everyone wanted to talk about how utterly horrendous our defense was on the last play, that has never been a sticking point with me. We were going to get destroyed in overtime anyway with the way the momentum was shifting. But to control an entire game by double digits, and then to play as though we were trailing while up ten, throwing up quick, ill-advised shots and giving up easy jump shots on the other end, was particularly stomach-churning. The fact of the matter is, no one should have been talking about the last shot, because the last shot should have never  happened. Indiana had the ball with the shot clock turned off and a tie game. That should mean overtime in a worst case scenario. Instead, Victor Oladipo, in perhaps the only mistake he would make in his entire junior season, saw a lane and tried to go behind his back to get there, only to be picked by D.J. Richardson. To his credit, Oladipo made a tremendous play to get back after the steal and make what should have been a game saving block. Then, with under a second left, the above happened.

#5: Maryland 64- Indiana 52 , 2002

In all honesty, this loss didn’t devastate me as much as it should have, because I had a feeling that my beloved Hoosiers were about to be exposed. But it was obviously a sad feeling when the ride of the 2002 tourney ended with a loss one game short of a championship. They just didn’t have enough depth to knock off another superior opponent once the threes stopped falling. However, this was the first time Indiana had ever lost in a title game in six tries, and it has to make the list just due to the sheer magnitude of the game. Also, we did have the ball when game was tied with just under ten minutes to play, so we had a real chance to pull the upset in this one.

#4: Wisconsin 68- Indiana 66 , 2008

What made this game even worse than the outcome would suggest is that this was also the day that the Kelvin Sampson allegations hit. Indiana was coming off huge back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Purdue, and would be in control of the Big Ten with a victory. The game was tightly contested all the way through, with over a dozen lead changes. Sampson was still at the helm at this point, and the Hoosiers clung to a 66-65 lead with ten seconds left, Wisconsin ball. It seemed that the call would be to go inside for an easy two, but instead, Brian Butch, the only polar bear that I have ever disliked, threw up a deep three-pointer that somehow banked into the hoop. Indiana had a chance to go back ahead, but a hurried three rimmed out, and deflation set in. One could argue that it was the single turning point for that promising season, the moment when the music stopped on one of the most talented teams to ever put on the Candy Stripes.

#3: Illinois 70- Indiana 67, 1989

In 1989, the Big Ten boasted three of the nation’s top five teams throughout the season, and games like this one really were the true glory days of the conference. Trailing 67-65, Indiana went to its star, Jay Edwards, who hit an improbable jumper from behind the backboard, seemingly as time expired to put the game into overtime, and with the crowd and momentum on the Hoosiers’ side. But, before the days of replay or tenths of seconds on the scoreboard, the officials had to rely on their own judgment, and in this case, that meant giving Illinois the ball with one second left. For some reason, Knight chose not to defend the inbounds pass, which turned out to be a perfect one directly to Nick Anderson, who was still well behind the three point line. Anderson had a enough time to catch, plant his feet and throw up a perfect 30-plus foot jumpshot that hit nothing but net as time expired. Ugh.

#2: Minnesota 59 – Indiana 58, 2008

As bad as the Wisconsin game had been earlier in the year, this was much worse, coming in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals. The Sampson fiasco had played itself out, and Dan Dakich was running a team that clearly didn’t want to play for him. I’ve seen many frustrating losses to the Golden Gophers over the years, mostly when we had ten point leads with under two minutes to play (that happened twice under Davis), but this one takes the cake because we played poorly and trailed the entire game. Until the last few seconds, that is. That’s when trailing by two with 3 seconds left after a made free throw, Eric Gordon intentionally missed the second in a manner so perfect that D.J. White went up and grabbed the rebound and put the ball back up to tie the game at 57. White was also fouled on the play, which meant that IU now had a chance to win the game! He missed the free throw, but recovered his own rebound and was fouled again. He drained one of the two free throws, and somehow, Indiana had a one point lead, and only needed to play good enough defense to stop Minnesota for 1.5 seconds. The ball flew like a laser beam through three Indiana defenders and through the only possible path to Blake Hoffarber’s wretched little hands. He threw the ball up so quickly that I could hardly even believe that he had caught it, much less believe that the ball was now making its way to the center of the rim and through the net for the Minnesota win. My Hoosiers, once a Final Four favorite in 2008, were then royally screwed by the selection committee and given a #8 seed despite their 25-7 record, and after all of that, lost without much of a fight in the first round to #9 seeded Arkansas. The mass exodus that followed would result in the never-to-be-mentioned 6-25 season next year, but this shot is the moment of that season that completely defined rock bottom. What could be worse than that?

#1: Kansas 83- Indiana 77, 1993

This was actually a tough call, but when I look back over the last 25 seasons, no loss was more painful to take than this one. Coming off a Final Four season in 1992, the 1993 Hoosiers returned all five starters and were ranked the #1 team in the nation heading into the tournament, something than even the 1987 champions could not say. Hopes for a national title were high after a 17-1 Big Ten campaign, but star power forward Alan Henderson’s knee injury prevented him from contributing in the regional final against a pesky Kansas team that had beaten the Hoosiers earlier in the year. Those Jayhawks once again proved too tough for the depleted but determined Big Red, and the most promising season since the last national title ended without even making an appearance in the Final Four. Looking back on that season, I’m not sure we would have won the championship anyway, as Kentucky had also beaten us already, Michigan had the fab five (although we beat them twice in Big Ten play) and North Carolina had it all. But still, it would have been nice to have a chance with a healthy, experienced team, especially considering that Kansas would lose to the eventual champion Tarheels in the semifinal. I still haven’t gotten over this one.

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Sports

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s