ON THIS DAY, In 1992, Tournament Run Kicked Into High Gear With Win over Florida State

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If there was ever an Indiana basketball team that seemed to be all on its own during an NCAA tournament run, the 1992 team might have fit that bill perfectly. 

That Hoosiers team was loaded with many of our all-time favorite players, Cheaney, Bailey, Anderson, Henderson and more. It's not a spoiler to tell you they made it to the Final Four that year — and we'll get to all of that in a few days in this series — but the journey to Minneapolis was entertaining as well.

And lonely.

Lonely? Damn right.

Today's anniversary is of the March 26, 1992 regional semifinal game with Florida State in far-off Albuquerque, N.M., but it needs to be set up a bit because the Hoosiers had to travel thousands of miles on their marathon road to the Final Four, and that never should have happened.

This was still pre-Big Ten tournament days, so the regular season was everything and all Indiana needed to do was go to Purdue on the final day of the season to grab a share of the conference title. Instead, they went up to West Lafayette and laid an egg, losing to the Boilermakers in a game where Bob Knight was livid because, in his eyes, the loss was more a lack of effort than it was a lack of execution. 

Nothing lit a fire in Knight more than that. And he went nuts afterward with a verbal assault on his players.

"The loss at Purdue was an all-time rip job, Coach was so pissed,'' former Indiana assistant coach Dan Dakich said a few years ago when we wrote about those 1992 and 1993 seasons for my book with Terry Hutchens, "Missing Banners.'' 

"We showed up there with no effort. I didn't get pissed very often, but I was pissed that day, too. Everybody was. After that, they were mature enough to handle it, but they were also scared enough. No one ever wanted to lose another game again.''

The loss was so costly because instead of playing the tournament in front of thousands of IU fans in Dayton or Cincinnati as a No. 1 seed, the Hoosiers were relegated to the West Regional as a No. 2 seed and had to play games in Boise, Idaho, and Albuquerque, N.M.. 

The Florida State matchup was interesting because of what lied ahead, too. UCLA was the No. 1 seed in the West, and the Bruins had embarrassed Indiana at the start of the season. winning by 15. Indiana wanted a rematch badly, but couldn't get there without beating a very good Florida State team. There could be no looking ahead.

The Hoosiers won somewhat comfortably, but it was a strange game. Senior Eric Anderson didn't start — but he played 31 minutes and led the Hoosiers with 24 points in the 85-74 win. Greg Graham didn't start either, but he played 36 minutes and scored 19 points. Calbert Cheaney had 17 points and Damon Bailey added 10.

This '92 team, which was always very close, actually seemed to bond so far away from home, as if all they had were each other. They did a ton of traveling, from Bloomington to Boise and back, and from Bloomington to New Mexico and back. There weren't a lot of Indiana fans in the stands in either place.

"Those were some tough trips, especially Boise, because Coach Knight was still so upset with that Purdue loss. It took him a while to look ahead and get that game out of his system,'' Bailey said a few years ago. "He was really mad at us, and never really let up. So we just sort of internalized things and stuck together.

"To be honest, we understood why he was so upset, because we knew how good we were and what we were capable of anyway. When the tournament started, we were very focused on what we needed to do, and we were zoned it. We were right back to playing at a very high level again in the tournament, and it showed.''

Other March 26 moments

  • 2019, lost to Wichita State in NIT quarterfinals in Bloomington: This disappointing season ended with a thud, too, when the Hoosiers could have earned a trip to New York for the NIT finals but stumbled in an ugly 73-63 loss to Wichita State. Indiana shot only 38 percent in the game.
  • 1973, beat No. 4 Providence in Final Four consolation game: Back in the day, there was a consolation game at the Final Four, and Indiana played in it after losing to UCLA in the semifinals two days earlier. Indiana won 97-79 to at least end the season feeling good about themselves. Seniors Steve Downing and John Ritter went out in style, leading the way with 21 points each.

Related 'ON THIS DAY' stories

  • March 16, 2017: Indiana fires Tom Crean after nine seasons. CLICK HERE
  • March 17, 2000: Indiana loses to Pepperdine 77-57 in Bob Knighjt's final game as coach of the Hoosiers. CLICK HERE
  • March 18, 1953: Hoosiers win their second NCAA championship on Bobby Leonard's last-minute free throw. CLICK HERE
  • March 19, 201
  • March 19, 2016: Indiana knocks off Kentucky in second round in Des Moines in Tom Crean's final NCAA tournament win for the Hoosiers. CLICK HERE
  • March 20, 1987: Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski meet in the postseason for the first time, and IU prevails. CLICK HERE
  • March 21, 2002: Indiana's huge second-half comeback helps take down No. 1-ranked Duke in regional semifinals. CLICK HERE
  • March 22, 1975: Indiana's unbeaten season gets spoiled by Mike Flynn and Kentucky in an epic 92-90 regional final. CLICK HERE
  • March 23, 2002: Mike Davis and Indiana punch their ticket to the 2002 Final Four with a regional final win over Kent State. CLICK HERE
  • March 24, 1973: Indiana comes oh so close to taking down Bill Walton and the UCLA dynasty in the Final Four national semifinals. CLICK HERE
  • March 25, 2016: Yogi Ferrell plays his final  game with the Hoosiers in a loss to No. 1 North Carolina in the regional semifinals in 2016. CLICK HERE
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