Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22, 1975: Hoosiers go down

DAYTON, Ohio - Despite entering the Mideast Regional final undefeated at 30-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, Indiana wasn't flying as high as it should have been on March 22, 1975. Scott May, their leading scorer, had broken his arm in a late-season victory over archrival Purdue, leaving the Hoosiers shorthanded entering the tournament.

Still, the Hoosiers had talent, with six future NBA draft picks on the roster, and they won their first two tournament games fairly easily, leading to a highly anticipated matchup with No. 2 Kentucky in the regional final. Kentucky wasn't as talented, but would still have four players drafted into the NBA that summer.

The game was a matchup between contrasting styles, as Kentucky's big and brawny players went up against Indiana's quick team. Indiana coach Bob Knight hoped to add even more speed to his lineup and took a risk by starting May, despite May having a cast on his arm. Despite the surprise start, May had little impact, playing only seven minutes.

In a bit of a surprise, Kentucky's size and strength carried the day. Using their obvious height advantage, the Wildcats pushed around the Hoosiers, causing the Hoosiers to lose their composure and make uncharacteristic mistakes. Indiana center Ken Benson did what he could, scoring 33 points and grabbing 22 rebounds, but Indiana still trailed 89-81 with five minutes to play.

The Hoosiers tried to come back, even cutting the deficit to two points with 1:45 left, but they couldn't get over the hump, and Kentucky advanced to the Final Four with a 92-90 victory. The Wildcats won one more game in the tournament before losing the final to UCLA.

For Indiana, meanwhile, the loss was significant. After losing a Big Ten playoff game the previous March, the Hoosiers hadn't lost a game since. After losing to Kentucky, the Hoosiers wouldn't lose again until December of 1976, winning the national championship in 1976 with college basketball's last undefeated team. That meant that the Hoosiers' loss to Kentucky was their only defeat in a span of 34 months.

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