Illini slow Hoosiers but can’t stop ’em, 54-48

Illini slow Hoosiers but can’t stop ’em, 54-48

by Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

February 15, 1976

From the February 15, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

Jim Crews took his turn in Indiana’s wild-card hero’s role Saturday and the Hoosiers – none too gingerly assertively nor impressively – took another winning step toward a fourth Big Ten championship.

Illinois fell 54-48 at Assembly Hall where 17,759 spectators joined Indiana coach Bob Knight in mystification about the Hoosiers’ tendency to refute basketball’s legends about a home-court advantage – whether they’re playing at home or away.

Illinois led the Hoosiers at halftime, 27-26, and took the issue into the last minute before Indiana put things away with four free throws by Crews and a game-closing lay-up by Kent Benson.

The Hoosiers hit five of their first seven shots, three of those by Quinn Buckner, to jump ahead of Illinois 10-6, before the game was five minutes old.

But life became a struggle for Indiana about then, eased only by a seven-point spurt in 45 seconds facilitated by an unusual five-point sequence.

That stretch came at a helpful time for Indiana, just after Illinois had moved ahead, 16-15, on a jump shot by Audie Matthews with 9:12 left in the half.

From the February 15, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

Jim Wisman arched a shot in over Illinois’ 3-3 zone defense from straight out front and with the shot in the air, Illinois’ Otho Tucker fouled Benson in rebound jockeying. Indiana got the ball out of bounds and freshman Rich Valavicius converted a rebound into a three-point play that opened a quick 20-16 lead.

After a Tucker miss, Benson got free for his only field goal of the half to complete the seven-point run and give Indiana a 22-16 lead.

It was 26-18 after a one-and-one conversion by Scott May at 6:04 of the half. “That was the point where we had a chance to take control of the game and we didn’t,” Knight said.

Indeed, things shifted so totally in the opposite direction that Indiana didn’t score again in the half – a dismaying six minutes in which the Hoosiers missed six shots, committed three turnovers and combined all frustrations by losing a Wisman basket because Benson was called for a screening foul far from the shot. And it was his third, dictating his removal (at 2:04 of the half).

IU’s Tom Abernethy. From the February 15, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

Still, it took two steals by the littlest man on the court, 5-10 freshman Larry Lubin, to let Illinois slip around Indiana in the last minute of the half.

Lubin cashed one in himself after coming up with a loose ball at midcourt then swiped the ball away after an IU offensive rebound and got a pass to Audie Matthews for a fast break, that paid off in two free throws and a one-point Illini halftime lead – the third time in the last four Saturday’s Indiana has gone to the dressing room at halftime behind.

The fourth time also came Saturday.

Knight sent the Hoosiers back to the court after a relatively short halftime session, then about three minutes before the break ended – interrupted their shooting to send them back to the locker room for some additional thoughts. Quick ones. Doesn’t take long to say, “Wake up.”

“He was just really upset that we weren’t ready to play any better,” senior forward Tom Abernethy said. The unprecedented double-session helped “maybe a little bit,” he said. “But the way it turned out, we still had to fight for our lives.”

The Hoosiers did break their scoreless stretch after seven minutes and 21 seconds, Benson hitting two free throws at 18:43 for a 28-27 lead.

Illinois got the lead back once, but Buckner returned it to IU with a jump shot at 17:48 and May – who had the worst scoring day he’s had in two seasons with a six-point total – supplied a little cushion with his only goal of the second half.

With 14:13 to go, though, he drew his fourth foul and left Indiana up at the time only 36-34.

It was 38-36 when Crews came on to replace Bob Wilkerson with 12:36 to go … and 42-40 when Crews scored over the Illini zone to start a spurt that boomed the Hoosiers ahead, 48-40, with 9:44 to go.

From there on, Indiana played it conservatively, but Illinois didn’t leave its zone until 4:07 remained and Indiana’s lead was 52-48.

Up to then, Indiana had gone 14-for-14 at the free-throw line, but three one-and-one misses made Hoosier life anxious in those closing minutes.

Buckner, who missed two of them, stole the ball back after one to eliminate that Illini opportunity and Illinois wasted the other two with three-shot flurries that produced no points.

At last, Crews converted a couple of free throws at 1:00 and followed with two more at 0:28 to put the Illini away – the 31st straight victim of the Hoosiers in Big Ten play and at home and their 51st in a row in regular-season games.

After going 10-for-33 the first half .303, which meant the figure was 5-for-26, or .192 after the first five minutes), Indiana managed to squeeze out a .400 shooting day – to .564 for the patient Illini.

From the February 15, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

Indiana’s edge came in other places – far better free-throw shooting (.818 for the team that hitherto ranked last in the Big Ten in that category, to .364 for Illinois), a 31-24 rebounding lead, and a none-too-pretty four-turnover margin (18 to Illinois’ 22).

First-year Illinois coach Lou Henson looked at only one of those items. “We shoot a high percentage, get a good percentage of the boards … but then we don’t hit our free throws,” he mused. “If we had, we’d have won it.”

Maybe, although shooting 1.000 would have given Illinois only nine more points. Basketball is not a game for mathematical purists.

Benson led Indiana with 17 points and 9 rebounds, while Buckner added 10 points, Tucker’s 12 led Illinois.

Now 21-0 for the season and 12-0 in the Big Ten, Indiana goes to Purdue Monday to meet a Boilermaker team that has moved into third place in the league with an 8-4 conference record and a 13-8 overall mark after its 98-73 crushing of Ohio State Saturday.

Illinois, 6-7 in the conference and 13-9 overall, is at home to Ohio State Monday.

ILLINOIS 48 M FG FT R A PF TP Adams, f 39 4-10 0-0 3 1 4 8 Matthews, f 39 3-7 4-6 4 1 3 10 Washington, c 32 4-6 0-0 5 1 3 8 Tucker, g 36 6-10 0-4 5 0 3 12 Leighty, g 29 2-2 0-0 2 3 4 4 Ferdinand 7 1-1 0-0 2 0 1 2 Lubin 18 2-3 0-1 0 5 4 4 Team 3 Totals 22-39 4-11 24 11 22 48 INDIANA 58 M FG FT R A PF TP May, f 26 2-9 2-2 2 1 4 6 Abernethy, f 29 2-6 2-2 6 2 2 6 Benson, c 38 4-11 9-11 9 0 3 17 Buckner, g 33 5-10 0-2 3 2 1 10 Radford, g 9 1-2 0-0 1 2 2 2 Valavicius 24 2-5 1-1 4 0 0 5 Wilkerson 18 1-2 0-0 2 4 1 2 Wisman 10 1-3 0-0 0 1 3 2 Crews 13 2-2 4-4 1 0 0 8 Team 3 Totals 20-50 18-22 31 12 16 58 SCORE BY HALVES Illinois 27-21 48 Indiana 26-32 58 Errors: Illinois 22, Indiana 18. Blocked shots: Illinois 6 (Adams 3, Ferdinand, Leighty, Washington); Indiana 2 (Benson). Steals: Illinois 5 (Lubin 2, Adams, Leighty, Matthews); Indiana 12 (Abernethy 3, Benson 3, Buckner 3, Crews, May, Radford). Technical foul: Illinois bench. SHOOTING FG Pct. FT Pct. Illinois 22-39 .564 4-11 .364 Indiana 20-50 .400 18-22 .818 Officials: Orlando Palesse, Ed Maracich and Ken Kulick. Attendance: 17,759 (capacity). BIG TEN STANDINGS Conf. AG INDIANA 12-0 21-0 Michigan 10-3 16-5 Purdue 8-4 13-8 Iowa 6-5 16-6 Michigan State 7-6 11-11 Illinois 6-7 13-10 Northwestern 5-8 10-12 Minnesota 4-8 12-8 Ohio State 2-10 6-14 Wisconsin 2-11 8-13