Tuesday's Indiana University basketball victory at Michigan State — the No. 1-ranked team in the nation vs. No. 4 — took me back in time.
The Hoosiers' 72-68 win required overcoming a 67-63 deficit with 1:37 left in the game. The win will keep 24-3 IU at No. 1 in the nation and puts it in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a 12-2 record. The Spartans are now 22-5 overall and 11-3 in the league, all alone in second place.
It was an outstanding game, but it reminded me of an IU game I covered as a sports writer for The News-Sentinel during the greatest season in Hoosier history.
The greatest game I ever saw was 37 years ago on Feb. 7, 1976. I was at the courtside press table at Assembly Hall in Bloomington as the No. 1-rated, undefeated Hoosiers faced ninth-ranked Michigan. And Indiana had to come from behind and win it in overtime, 72-67.
The story I wrote about that game began with the Hoosiers huddled around coach Bob Knight during a timeout with 14 seconds on the clock in regulation and Michigan leading 60-58. IU guard Quinn Buckner had just scored his only basket of the game with 21 seconds remaining to trim the deficit from four to two. Now Michigan guard Steve Grote was to go to the free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity.
During the timeout, Knight called out, “Where's Crews? Where's Crews?” Senior guard Jim Crews then checked into the game for the first time.
Grote missed the free throw, IU got the rebound and called another timeout with 10 seconds remaining. What transpired after that remains as one of the turning points in college basketball history as Indiana finished the year with a national title and the last perfect record of any NCAA Division I team.
Here was part of my account in The News-Sentinel about what happened in those final 10 seconds:
“Buckner ended up with the shot. His previous basket was the first in nine attempts. And he missed again. But Crews sailed through the air to grab the rebound and heave the orange ball back up toward the hoop in one hurried motion. It bounced away from the mark with practically no time left. A forest of arms stretched for the bounding ball, and Indiana's 6-11 giant Kent Benson took control enough to send it back at the basket one last time.
“The buzzer blared for a final decision with the ball in the air, and pandemonium flooded the Assembly Hall crowd of 17,743 when it dropped through the net and referee Bob Burson signaled it good to tie the score at 60-all.”
The overtime was anticlimactic.
Indiana faced Michigan for a third time in the NCAA title game March 29 in Philadelphia. The Wolverines were No. 9 at that point as well, but that game had little of the excitement of the February meeting as the Hoosiers won 86-68.