ON THIS (Great) DAY, 2 Final Four Semifinal Victories ... and a Much-Discussed Loss

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — March 28 is one crowded day on the calendar when it comes to great moments in Indiana basketball history. It's so crowded, in fact, that picking just one game to spotlight was downright impossible.

So let's have some quick triipleheader fun ... and then cry in our beer a little bit, too. Because there's so much to talk about.

There are three March 28 victories that we have to talk about. First and foremost is my "Most Enjoyable'' Indiana game ever, the wild 97-93 victory over a great UNLV team in the national semifinals in 1987 that punched their ticket to the title game. Then there's also the 1981 win over LSU that put Isiah Thomas and the Hoosiers that put Indiana in the championship game. And very quickly, we'll look back at 1992 as well, when Indiana beat UCLA in the regional finals to make it to the Final Four.

And then, of course, the date would not be complete without discussing the March 28, 2013 game with Syracuse, the regional semifinals loss that has been broken down to infinity and beyond.

I was, quite frankly, going to write extensively about that game today instead of those three wins, but it's become clear during these two weeks that you prefer to relish in the victories, so that's what we'll do.

Let's start with my most enjoyable game ever.

Indiana 97, UNLV 93 on March 28, 1987

Sure, there was a special greatness to Indiana's 1987 roster, but there were also moments when the genius of Bob Knight would shine brightly, too. And this was one of those games.

UNLV was 37-1 and, let's be honest, probably the best team in the country that year. The Runnin' Rebels, led by Freddie Banks and Armon Gilliam, were loaded. And Knight, with five days to prepare, decided the best way to beat them was to run right along with them. 

And it was so much fun.

Steve Alford was incredible that day, scoring 33 points and free-wheeling like crazy in the ultimate fast-paced playground game. The 45-second shot clock that had been introduced to the college game a year earlier simply took up space. Dean Garrett, who scored 18 points and had 12 rebounds, and Ricky Calloway both played all 40 minutes and Steve Eyl and Joe Hillman played great off the bench when Daryl Thomas got in early foul trouble.

It went back and forth the entire game, with Indiana grabbing a lead and then holding off one UNLV run after another because Banks — who made 10 three-pointers and scored 38 points — couldn't be stopped. It wasn't until UNLV went cold at the end that Indiana was able to pull away.

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Steve Alford attracts attention from the UNLV defense in the 1987 Final Four. (USA TODAY Sports)

“We didn’t think that it would be the kind of game we could play with all kinds of patience and a lot of passing and dribbling because we thought that their defensive pressure was too great,” Knight said at the time of the Hoosiers’ quick-paced tempo. “We felt that if it was going to be a 90 (-point game), it would be played at 90 rather than 60. We felt that if we tried to play a game at 60, then they might score 85.”

Garrett called it "one of the most amazing games I've ever played in. Ever,'' he said last week. "That game, it just seemed like there was an enormous amount of pressure on every possession. If you didn't score, you knew they would. They were hard to stop, but so were we. We played great that day, and Steve, well, he was just incredible. Steve wasn't going to be denied that day.''

When you've got some free time, watch the entire game again some day. CLICK HERE

Indiana 67, LSU 49 on March 28, 1981

The most amazing thing about the 1981 Indiana team was that it simply kept getting better every game they played. The Hoosiers were just 16-9 at one point before reeling off five straight wins to end the regular season, winning the Big Ten by a game over Iowa.

Then they started steamrolling people in the NCAA tournament, and that included LSU in the national semifinals. They pounded them 67-49 in the rout, holding them to 32 percent shooting. 

Isiah Thomas had 14 points of 6-of-8 shooting, but the star of the game was junior forward Landon Turner, who scored 20 points and had eight rebounds.

Turner was the focus of Indiana's offense — he took 19 shots that night — and LSU never had an answer for him. It was clear how important he had become to this team, and how bright his future was.

That bright future ended a few months later, of course, when Turner was paralyzed in a car accident. 

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Bob Knight shares some advice with Indiana junior Landon Turner. (Courtesy: IU Archives)

Indiana 67, UCLA 49 on March 28, 1992

Revenge is sweet, and the Hoosiers got it big-time on this day in 1992, crushing No. 1-seed UCLA 106-79 to avenge an early-season 15-point loss and advance to the Final Four. 

Calbert Cheaney was his usual awesome self, scoring 23 points, and Alan Henderson had 10 points and 12 rebounds. But it was Damon Bailey who stole the show in what was probably his best game ever on a big stage for the Hoosiers. He scored 22 points and made 4-of-5 three pointers to spur the rout.

"I think that game proved a lot about how far that team had come in '92,'' Bailey said in an interview a few years ago for the book "Missing Banners.'' "We got beat pretty good by UCLA the start the season, but then we blew them out in a big way when it mattered the most. That's how much better we were.''

Syracuse 61, Indiana 50 on March 28, 2013

What if I just stopped right here?

You good with that?

Can we just let those first three games stand?

We can't, of course, because this regional final loss derailed Tom Crean's best season with the Hoosiers. Indiana was No. 1 for part of the year, had won the Big Ten and was a No. 1 seed in the tournament. It was Indiana's best roster in a decade — and it all fell apart in one night.

Outside of Victor Oladipo, who was 5-for-6 shooting and led the Hoosiers with 16 points, the rest of the Hoosiers were 11-for-41 shooting, a putrid 26.8 percent. Indiana's two starting guards, Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell, played 50 combined minutes and never scored a single point.

Tom Crean caught the heat for not being able to figure out Syracuse's 2-3 zone, but that's a whole different story. It really is.  Still, it was a brutal loss, one that Hoosier Nation never got over when it came to Crean. But for the players, it was never about preparation, it was about execution.''

"We could have hit more shots, got more stops, got to the free throw line more,'' Hulls told us a few years ago. "There are so many things that still go through my mind, but what's done is done, and we have to live with it.''

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
  • March 26, 1992: Eric Anderson and the Hoosiers start a nice tournament run in 1992 with a win over Florida State. CLICK HERE
  • March 27, 1993: Indiana's dream season in 1993 comes to a bitter conclusion with a loss to Kansas in the regional final. CLICK HERE