Hoosiers finish perfect again

Hoosiers finish perfect again

by Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

March 7, 1976

From the March 7, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

When it was all over but the shouting, it was a long, long way from over at Assembly Hall Saturday afternoon.

It was an incongruous day, one in which the basketball was almost like a movie co-featured on the program with stage shows before and after.

The game didn’t suffer. Top-ranked Indiana became the first team ever to go through two straight Big Ten seasons unbeaten … the second team in all the collegiate world ever to put two unbeaten regular seasons back-to-back, since the NCAA has been in the business of picking a national champion, anyway. And that’s 38 years worth of ever.

The Hoosiers did it with class, blasting away from Ohio State in the opening minutes and sailing to a 96-67 victory.

To be sure, that was what Saturday’s 17,756 came to see: Victory No. 27, assuring a new banner to go alongside the one freshly hoisted at one end of the Hall, white letters on a red silk background proclaiming:

Indiana University Big Ten Champions

Undefeated Season 29-0

UPI National Champions

1974-75

From the March 7, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

A couple of tiny copy changes and that one’s twin can be prepared immediately. It’s the other end, where banners hang commemorating NCAA championships in 1940 and 1953 and a Final Four trip in 1973, toward which further Hoosier work this year will be directed.

Thoughts of future problems obviously hadn’t penetrated the concentration – admirable to the point of awesome – of the remarkable group of basketball players Saturday’s crowd came to see for the last time on home ground.

Neither were they particularly fearful of a pratfall in their last game. “Oh, no – everybody was ready to play,” junior center Kent Benson said. “You could feel that. We had a good practice week.”

Senior guard Jim Crews recalled, “He (coach Bob Knight) did mention something for the other players to try to make it a good effort for the seniors.”

Knight’s own version of his pre-game instructions: “I just told them we weren’t expecting them to go out and scale Mount Everest – just go out and play.”

They didn’t scale Mt. Everest, but they must have resembled it to the outmanned Buckeyes – trapped by fate into facing their most formidable job without their captain and center, 6-10 Craig Taylor.

“I’m not singing the blues,” Buckeye coach Fred Taylor said, “but we really had no one big enough in there. When we hospitalized him, we lost about 14 rebounds a game.”

Benson, the one non-senior in the Hoosier lineup, was so charged up about the emotional afternoon that he soared too high, sailed too far, shot not wisely and too well … or too darned straight anyway. Benson was charged with Assembly Hall’s first stuff. Price: the two points he scored and one technical foul, his first at IU.

It came in the first two minutes Saturday after Tom Abernethy and Benson had converted Quinn Buckner passes into a 4-0 Hoosier lead.

Bobby Wilkerson (20) takes the ball to the hole during IU vs. Ohio State, March 6, 1976.

Indiana got the ball back on a Buckner steal, and Bob Wilkerson drove for a lay-up that bounced out – straight out, just as Benson came flying along way above the rim. He caught, crammed and flushed as officials, paid to be prudish, enforced the anti-dunk rule that only the game’s rulesmakers love.

The Buckeyes caught their breath with the technical and converted it into a 4-3 look on the scoreboard.

But from 9-7 the Hoosiers galloped way. They ran well; they defended well; they rebounded well; they shot well. Suddenly, the lead was 29-11 and Knight was scanning his bench for the first removal of his starters.

Senior Jim Crews was the first choice to go in, guard Bob Wilkerson the first to come out – with 7:39 left in the half and the lead at 31-13.

Buckner and Abernethy left next at (38-15) … then May (at 42-15) … and Benson (at 44-19, with 3:11 still left). Each was lauded, loudly, on departure.

It was 52-23 at halftime, and the starters came back. They jumped the lead to 69-34 and the exiting started for good. For the last time at The Hall. For the moments that the 17,756 had awaited with delicious dread as long as they had thought about Saturday and its special side.

Knight made it a five-court feast. Wilkerson left first, to a standing ovation that roared on after play had resumed.

Forty seconds later, it was Abernethy, then at 10:18 with the lead 75-45, who shook hands with Taylor on his way to a rugged welcome at the IU bench – four quick whacks by Knight while the crowd roared and the pep band sent up its last rendition of “The Mighty Quinn” on a day of 9 points, 10 assists and 6 steals.

Benson checked out at 9:14, the applause no less for his junior status after a 21-point, 11-rebound afternoon.

And then it was May, at 8:38 with the lead 81-49, 21 of those Hoosier points behind his name.

Crews got to play long enough to score eight points before his ceremonial derricking came at 7:44.

IU coach Bob Knight waves to the fans during Senior Night, March 6, 1976.

There was a wrung-out atmosphere in the stands and on-court the rest of the way until the buzzer finally came and the seniors were back on-court for more applause, more congratulations, personal farewells.

The Hoosiers finished with a .506 shooting mark and a 55-39 rebounding edge. Freshman Fred Poole led with 17 points as the beleaguered Buckeyes ended with a 10-game losing streak, a 2-16 league record that made them last, a 6-20 overall mark that was the worst in Taylor’s 18 years.

The game sends Indiana into NCAA play (against St. John’s at South Bend next Saturday) with a 27-0 record, its other live streaks packed away for another team and another year – 37 victories in a row in Big Ten play, 57 in a row in regular-season games, 34 in a row at Assembly Hall.

And two straight years of being No. 1.

OHIO STATE 67 M FG FT R A PF TP Daugherty, f 9 2-9 0-0 1 3 0 4 Poole, f 33 4-9 9-11 6 2 3 17 Hammond, c 33 4-8 2-6 12 2 3 10 Wood, g 30 6-14 1-1 4 1 4 13 Bayless, g 23 5-7 1-1 1 0 3 11 Cline 21 3-7 0-0 4 0 3 6 Bolden 21 2-8 0-0 2 1 0 4 Smith 6 1-2 0-0 1 0 2 2 Burris 3 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 Scott 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 Team 7 Totals 27-66 13-19 39 9 19 67 INDIANA 96 M FG FT R A PF TP May, f 26 10-18 1-2 9 0 2 21 Abernethy, f 21 3-7 2-3 0 2 2 8 Benson, c 28 10-16 1-3 11 2 2 21 Buckner, g 24 4-7 1-2 3 10 2 9 Wilkerson, g 18 2-8 0-0 4 5 1 4 Crews 14 3-5 2-2 0 0 1 8 Valavicius 13 3-4 0-1 5 0 3 6 Radford 15 4-6 0-1 6 1 0 8 Wisman 14 0-2 0-0 2 3 2 0 Haymore 5 0-1 0-0 4 0 2 0 Roberson 8 2-4 3-3 4 0 2 7 Eells 5 1-3 0-0 2 0 0 2 Bender 9 1-4 0-0 3 2 0 2 Team 2 Totals 43-85 10-17 55 25 19 96 SCORE BY HALVES Ohio State 23-44 67 Indiana 52-44 96 Errors: Ohio State 21, Indiana 20 Blocked shots: Ohio State 1 (Cline); Indiana 4 (Benson 2, Abernethy, Roberson) Steals: Ohio State 10 (Poole 3, Bayless 2, Daugherty 2, Wood 2, Cline); Indiana 14 (Buckner 6, Benson 3, May 2, Abernethy, Crews, Wilkerson). Technical foul: Benson. SHOOTING FG Pct. FT Pct. Ohio State 27-66 .409 13-10 .684 Indiana 43-85 .506 10-17 .588 Officials: Carel Cosby, Gary Muncy and Art White Attendance: 17,756 (capacity)