Ebbing the Tide

Ebbing the Tide

IU edges ‘Bama to move into showdown

by Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

March 19, 1976

From the March 19, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

BATON ROUGE, La. – Scott May, the all-American, and Tom Abernethy, the overlooked, delivered the plays that rescued Indiana from Alabama’s grasp Thursday night and sent the Hoosiers on to the final round of the NCAA’s Mideast Regional tourney.

Indiana’s 74-69 victory qualified the Hoosiers to meet another team nipped but not nabbed by a frisky underdog, Marquette – 62-57 winner over Western Michigan in the other game before a full house of 14,150 at Louisiana State’s Assembly Center.

The two teams, No. 1 and No. 2 in the national polls, meet at 2:15 p.m. Saturday (Ch. 2) to pick the region’s representative in next week’s national finals.

Indiana riding a 9-0 takeoff, led throughout the game with the quick and strong Southeastern Conference champions – until sub Keith McCord’s jump shot with 3:58 to go boosted ‘Bama ahead, 69-68.

The Tide never scored again. That is not to say the Alabamanas died early.

May made the crucial plays that Alabama’s all-American center Leon Douglas could not – tough luck that Douglas handled philosophically. “I think I can look past tonight to tomorrow and think this has been a good year for the team and for me,” Douglas said.

He appeared the fate-tapped one when he made an amazing play to stop May’s first attempt at rescue. Riding with our fouls Douglas lived out his game-eve comment on how he intended to go after the Hoosiers without eliminating himself with fouls. “I’ll just have to pick out the shots I can block … except when we need a big play,” Douglas had said.

Suddenly, the 69-68 Alabama lead was imperiled by the power and grace of May on the move toward the basket. By his own man, May swooped in for the lay-up that would put Indiana ahead again, but Douglas left Kent Benson for a sweeping slap that turned May’s shot aside without contact. No foul. No points.

The blocked shot gave Alabama the ball with 3:28 left, and the Tide held it until Douglas drew a two-shot foul at 2:40. He blew both free throws but when ‘Bama rebounded the second one, Douglas got another close-in shot that missed May rebounding for the Hoosiers.

Scott May (42) takes it to the hoop vs. Alabama, March 18, 1976.

With 2:02 to go, May made perhaps his biggest shot yet at Indiana. Not really open and not particularly close in, May flashed behind Benson’s block and used the opening it offered to launch himself in the air and send a 17-foot jump shot into its goal.

That was at 2:02, good for a 70-69 lead, and Douglas made one more try to revise the Hoosier script by taking a pass near the basket, wheeling and putting it up with a powerful move. Too powerful. The shot bounced off the rim and May was there to muscle away with another rebound, the lead preserved.

For a minute, the Hoosiers stalled, but at 0:40, Abernethy was fouled. His one-and-one chance that might have eased Hoosier anxiety plenty rattled inside the goal and bounced out, giving ‘Bama a chance.

McCord wanted to go to Douglas, but the two missed connections, and the Alabama freshman wound up in a bump with Hoosier Quinn Buckner – the ball flying free in center court and McCord flying right after it. He had the ball back for an instant but as he rolled on the floor in center court trying to get possession reestablished Abernethy came along to snatch the loose ball off the floor and start toward the Hoosier goal. At 0:14 he was fouled again – “a chance to redeem myself,” he called it later.

He didn’t fluff it. Swish … swish … and Indiana was affluent again up 72-69 with 14 seconds to. Bob Wilkerson leaped high to corral Alabama reserve Tommy Bonds’ near miss, and Wilkerson padded the margin with two more free throws at 0:06.

May starred on a sour shooting night. He was 9-for-22 but he totaled 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds – the latter an impressive figure that became amazing when rebound totals for Douglas and robust freshman Reginald King were posted. Together they had 3. Advantage, May.

Ironically, Abernethy was the only Hoosier who didn’t make double figures. Benson, dominant himself for a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the first half when he hit six shots in a row and powered the Hoosiers to as big a lead as they had all day, 27-15, scored 15.

At halftime, it was Indiana 37-29. The lead went back to 12 (54-42) and barely two minutes later, it was a 56-52 game – Benson on the bench then with four fouls and Abernethy tending to Douglas.

May’s three-point play and a driving lay-up by Buckner blunted the ‘Bama-charge and it was 65-57 with 8:58 to go after two May free throws – Douglas’s first basket against Abernethy coming just before Benson returned at 7:19.

But the Tide didn’t quit, catching up (at 67-67) on T.R. Dunn’s basket at 4:08 to set up the frenzy at the finish.

It was Indiana’s 29th straight victory, while Alabama’s season ended 23-5. The area ‘Bama coach C.M. Newton made his target, rebounding was a washout for his team, Indiana owning the boards, 44-35. But, for a change, Indiana had more turnovers (20) than the team it chased (14 for ‘Bama), a shooting edge of .483 to .449 cushioning the impact for IU.

Wilkerson had 14 (and 12 rebounds’ and Buckner 12. Dunn’s 16 led Alabama, guard Anthony Murray adding 15 and Douglas 12.

ALABAMA 69 M FG FT R A PF TP Brown, f 25 3-7 1-2 5 0 4 7 King, f 5 2-6 0-0 6 0 5 4 Douglas, c 39 5-16 2-6 7 3 4 12 Murray, g 38 7-11 1-2 7 4 1 15 Dunn, g 38 7-14 2-2 5 1 5 16 McCord 25 5-9 1-2 3 0 2 11 Bonds 4 1-2 0-0 0 0 1 2 McElveen 6 1-4 0-0 1 1 1 2 Team 1 Totals 31-69 7-14 35 9 23 69 INDIANA 74 M FG FT R A PF TP May, f 40 9-22 7-9 16 0 2 25 Abernethy, f 40 2-6 4-5 6 3 1 8 Benson, c 33 7-11 1-2 5 3 4 15 Buckner, g 31 5-8 2-5 2 4 4 12 Wilkerson, g 40 6-12 2-2 12 4 1 14 Radford 9 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 Valavicius 6 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 0 Wisman 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 Team 2 Totals 29-60 16-24 44 14 13 74 SCORE BY HALVES Indiana 37-37 74 Alabama 29-40 69 Errors: Indiana 20, Alabama 14 Blocked shots: Indiana 1 (Benson), Alabama 4 (Douglas 2, Dunn, King). Steals: Indiana 2 (Buckner, Radford), Alabama 4 (Murray 2, Dunn 2) SHOOTING FG Pct. FT Pct. Indiana 29-60 . 483 16-24 .667 Alabama 31-69 . 449 7-14 .500 Officials: Irv Brown and Booker Turner Attendance: 14,150 (capacity)