ON THIS DAY: In 2016, Indiana Smacks Around Kentucky to Advance to Sweet 16
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Unless it involves cutting down nets after winning a national title, there is nothing that Indiana basketball fans like more than beating hated arch-rival Kentucky. And when the Hoosiers beat the Wildcats to knock them out of the NCAA tournament, we'll that's just a dozen cherries on top.
That's what happened four years ago on March 19, 2016, when Indiana and Kentucky met up in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. The Hoosiers, led by senior guard Yogi Ferrell and freshman center Thomas Bryant, beat Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and the favored 'Cats 73-67 to send them back to Lexington with their collective tails between their legs.
Ferrell was brilliant for Tom Crean's Hoosiers. The beloved point guard had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, and committed just one turnover in 37 minutes of playing time. He was the ultimate point guard that night.
Bryant, the 6-foot-10 freshman who was really coming into his own late in the season, had his way inside, scoring 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field and making 7-of-9 free throws.
It was a very sweet win for the Hoosiers. it's always sweet, beating John Calipari and the Wildcats.
"This is something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life. I'm 1-0 against Kentucky,'' Ferrell said after the victory. "This is pretty big, especially since IU and Kentucky aren't playing in the regular season anymore. Now we're playing on an even bigger stage with so much more on the line, so this was huge.''
It was an emotional win for the Hoosiers, and it raised their record to 27-7 on the season. It was a nice bounce-back season after the struggles of 2014 and 2015, and the heat had been on Crean all season, starting with two losses in Hawaii in November to unranked teams Wake Forest and UNLV.
But the Hoosiers just kept getting better and won the Big Ten easily, finishing 15-3 and winning by two games. Ferrell always stuck by his coach, and it was no different after beating Kentucky.
"I'm very happy for him because he's such a smart coach,'' Ferrell said. "When we had that rough start (at the beginning of the season), he kept pushing us because he saw the potential in us. In my opinion, he should be coach of the year.''
Indiana relied on Bryant through much of the second half, and he scored at will inside against Kentucky's front line. Indiana led by as many as 10 points late, up 62-52. Kentucky made a run and got it to 69-67, but Bryant, who was only a 69 percent free throw shooter all season, made two big free throws in the final seconds to seal the game.
Ferrell was expecting a hearty welcome from his fellow students when they arrived back in Bloomington after beating their hated rivals.
"I'm expecting to get high-fives on the way to class. I know they're definitely proud of us.''
As it turned out, this was the final game that Indiana team would win in 2016. The following week, they traveled to Philadelphia for the regionals, and had to take on No. 1 seed North Carolina in the semifinals. The Tar Heels won 101-86, and would advance all the way to the NCAA title game, where they lost to Villanova.
Since that Kentucky win in 2016, the Hoosiers still haven't won an NCAA tournament game. The Hoosiers didn't make the tourney in 2017 and Crean was fired. And they haven't made the tournament yet in Archie Miller's tenure, though they probably would have this season had the event not been canceled.
Even though that 2016 team couldn't get past North Carolina, they still had a fantastic year. Ferrell was sensational, as was Bryant and fellow freshman OG Anunouby, and veterans Troy Williams, Collin Hartman, Max Bielfeldt and Nick Zeisloft.
That was a fun team, and it was a fun season.
Related 'ON THIS DAY' stories
- March 16, 2016: 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
- Coming March 20: A special day in Cincinnati on the road to the Final Four.