ON THIS DAY: Indiana and Duke in April Turns Into Valentine's Day

Tom Brew

Last in a series

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In college basketball, the stage doesn't get any bigger than the Final Four. And on this day 28 years ago — April 4, 1992 — the national semifinal game between Indiana and Duke was bursting with great story lines.

There was the obvious one, of course, the coaching battle between teacher and pupil with Bob Knight and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. His Blue Devils were defending national champions and were loaded again, losing only two games all year, and had become something of America's Team. They were ranked No. 1 in the country EVERY single week of the season

Indiana, though, was pretty darn good themselves. The Hoosiers were preseason No. 2, and despite a few hiccups along the way, were 23-6 entering the tournament with something of a chip on their shoulder after losing to the Purdue on the final day of the regular season, costing them a share of the Big Ten title.

Still, the Hoosiers were on a roll themselves, beating Eastern Illinois, No. 25 LSU, No. 20 Florida State and No. 4 UCLA to get to the Final Four. Duke was the favorite, but Indiana was optimistic, believing they matched up well with the Blue Devils.

And it showed, right from the beginning.

The Hoosiers jumped out to a nice lead — they started 12-for-14 shooting and in one stretch made eight shots in a row — and started to pull away, leading by 12 at 39-27 with just two minutes left in the half, But Duke chipped away before the half to cut it to 42-37 before the break.

Duke felt fortunate to be back in it, especially since it got almost nothing from its best player, Christian Laettner. He was just 1-for-6 shooting in the first half, and even missed the front end of two straight 1-and-1s, this after coming into the game making 20 free throws in a row.

"We just said we weren't playing as hard as Indiana," Duke point guard Bobby Hurley said at the time. "And usually, that's what we do best — outwork teams."

That set the stage for a second half for the ages, but it turned out to be determined more by the guys in the striped shirts than the 10 players on the floor.

There was very little rhythm to this game, because so many fouls were being called. Indiana players wound up being whistled for a whopping 33 fouls — Duke had only 18 — and four Indiana players — Calbert Cheaney, Alan Henderson, Damon Bailey and Greg Graham — all fouled out. 

Referee Teddy Valentine was right in the middle of all of it, too, right from the start of the half.

Indiana's Bailey was called for two fouls  his third and fourth — in a span four seconds. On the Hoosiers' next possession, Bailey drove into the lane, but his shot was blocked. Knight thought there should have been a foul called, and he was all over Valentine.

Valentine was standing right in front of Indiana's bench — many have said he did that on purpose — and called a technical foul on Knight just 1:54 into the half.

Duke would wind up scoring 11 straight points.

During the run, Knight called a timeout to talk to lead official John Clougherty and he screamed, "What did I say?" to earn the technical foul.

"The official told Cheaney that the technical was called because the bench jumped up," Knight said after the game when he was still fuming. "Those were his exact words. All I'll say is that's the first and only time I've ever been assessed a technical — or seen anybody assessed one — because the bench jumped up.

"(Valentine's officiating) "was the greatest travesty I've ever seen in basketball in 33 years as a college head coach."

It took Indiana nearly six minutes to finally score a point, and by then, Duke had taken control. The run turned out to be 31-6 for Duke, going from down 12 to up 13 points. 

With their four best players out of the game, Indiana scraped back into the game behind Todd Leary, who made three three-points in a span of just 25 seconds to get within 77-73

Indiana fouled and Duke hit one free throw and Indiana two to make it 78-75, and when the Blue Devils turned the ball over, the Hoosiers had a chance to tie. Leary had made three in a row but it was senior guard Jamal Meeks who took the final shot, but missed a three-point try with 23 seconds left and the Blue Devils secured the game with two free throws.

"The first five minutes of the second half it, all fell to pieces," said Graham, who led the Hoosiers with 18 points that night. "I don't know what happened."

Ask every Indiana fan and they'll tell you — Teddy Valentine stole that game from the Hoosiers. 

And when their blood starts to boil, they'll also tell you that he stole a championship banner from the Hoosiers as well. Two nights later, Duke beat Michigan by 20. Indiana could have done that, too.

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