Hoosiers shoot down myth, St. John’s, 90-70

Hoosiers shoot down myth, St. John’s, 90-70

by Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

March 14, 1976

From the March 14, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

SOUTH BEND – The theory that it’s always easier to play Indiana the second time around went the way of all myths Saturday.

It was shot down along with a good St. John’s team, 90-70, as the No. 1-ranked Hoosiers switched from regular-season to NCAA tournament play without missing a beat.

It was the same St. John’s team that the Hoosiers struggled to get by in December at Madison Square Garden in New York, 76-69.

The scene was Notre Dame’s Athletic and Convocation Center this time – Assembly Hall North on a day when red-wearing, bellowing Hoosiers filled almost all of the 11,345 seats. They had much to bellow about, including another all-America performance by college basketball’s 1975-76 player of the year, Scott May.

May, Indiana’s 6-7 senior forward, scored 33 points, 19 in the first half as Indiana took a 44-37 lead.

St. John’s cut it to 48-47 opening the second half, though, and the Hoosiers appeared to be struggling. IU coach Bob Knight lifted 6-11 center Kent Benson because “he was as tense as a drum – he seemed to be tight and anxious, trying to make the great play instead of just playing his game.”

Wayne Radford (22) and Scott May (42) fight for the ball vs. St. John’s, March 13, 1976.

He was replaced with 6-3 Wayne Radford, which gave Indiana a center-less lineup and St. John’s some instant match-up problems. Before the Redmen could think about the necessary switches, 6-8 sophomore George Johnson – the St. John’s center – was well out on the court trying to defend against usual Hoosier forward Tom Abernethy.

Abernethy made a fake, “saw an opening to the basket, and just took it.” His driving lay-up checked St. John’s momentum, and a half-minute later, May drilled a jump shot to boost Indiana ahead 54-49.

Benson returned, out only a minute and 27 seconds, and he got the basket that kept the Hoosiers charging – May setting it up by frisking St. John’s Beaver Smith of a rebound and feeding Benson for a lay-up.

Benson’s impact showed up again seconds later when he smothered a shot by Cecil Rellford and Radford went all the way with the deflection, hitting a 10-foot jump shot

Kent Benson pulls down a rebound vs. St. John’s, March 13, 1976.

In less than three minutes, Indiana jeopardy had been switched to a 58-49 position of command.

The rest of the game, 12 1/2 minutes, “was a disaster,” St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca said. “We never got back in the game.”

Why?

“Because they’re No. 1,” Carnesecca said simply. “They deserve all the accolades they’ve had.”

The victory, the 28th in a row for the unbeaten Hoosiers, advanced them to the Mid-East Regional at Baton Rouge, La., for a Thursday night game with Southeastern Conference champion Alabama – 79-64 winner over Atlantic Coast Conference champion North Carolina Saturday. The other Mid-East Regional teams are No. 2-ranked Marquette (79-60 conqueror of Western Kentucky) and Mid-American Conference champion Western Michigan (an overtime winner over Virginia Tech, 77-67, in Saturday’s other game at South Bend).

St. John’s, which spent virtually the entire year in the nation’s Top 20 and bowed out 23-6, got the Hoosiers into a running game uncharacteristic of either in the early minutes. “This was a game where St. John’s wasn’t going to hold back anything,” Knight said. “And we weren’t, either. As a result, we got involved in a little bit more of a running game than either Lou or I would probably have wanted.”

Wayne Radford (22) pump-fakes under the basket vs. St. John’s, March 13, 1976.

The wildest forays came in the opening seconds, including one stretch when the teams whipped the ball back and forth 11 times in two minutes and the score changed only from 5-4 to 7-6 – St. John’s the leader at both points.

May’s jump shot at 14:43 moved Indiana ahead, 10-9, and the Hoosiers stayed out front for a while.

They made a try at a knockout punch by pulling ahead, 21-15, on a crowd-lifting three-point play. May got the points, the reward for a tough catch of a snapping pass that Bob Wilkerson whipped through a couple of Redmen to get the ball upcourt to May, a step ahead of the pack.

St. John’s rode Glen Williams’ outside shooting to a comeback that caught the Hoosiers, 25-25, seven minutes ahead of the half.

Benson, 1-for-6 up to then with a succession of errors charged to him on foiled attempts to beat the St. John’s defense with inside passes, broke the tie with two straight hook shots – the second set up by Abernethy’s indelicate whack that kept a rebound out of St. John’s hands, put it back on the board for fresh contention, and delivered it into Benson’s hands. Redmen were spinning in every direction as Benson wheeled the ball quickly outside to Quinn.

ST. JOHN'S 70 M FG FT R A PF TP Smith, f 30 2-9 1-2 8 1 4 5Farmer, f 21 2-6 0-0 3 0 2 4Johnson, c 35 5-15 0-0 7 0 2 10 Alagia, g 34 7-13 3-4 6 4 2 17Williams, g 37 10-15 0-1 3 3 4 20 Rellford 22 5-7 0-0 2 1 4 10Clarke 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0 Winfree 8 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 2Weadock 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 Menar 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 Calabrese 3 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0Robertson 1 1-3 0-0 2 0 0 2McGuhins 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0McRae 1 0-1 0-0 1 0 0 0 Team 3 Totals 33-71 4-7 36 9 20 70 INDIANA 90 M FG FT R A PF TP May, f 38 14-23 5-5 7 2 3 33 Abernethy, f 38 3-5 1-2 6 2 2 7 Benson, c 37 8-18 4-4 13 2 3 20Buckner, g 34 7-13 1-2 2 3 3 15 Wilkerson, g 24 1-5 4-4 3 6 1 6 Radford 20 2-2 1-1 5 1 2 5 Wisman 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 Crews 1 1-1 0-0 2 0 0 2 Valavicius 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 Bender 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 Roberson 2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0Haymore 1 1-1 0-0 1 0 0 2 Team 2 Totals 37-71 15-18 41 18 14 90 SCORE BY HALVES St. John's 37-33 70 Indiana 44-46 90 Errors: St. John's 20, Indiana 17 Blocked shots: St. John's 2 (Johnson); Indiana 2 (Abernethy, Benson). Steals: St. John's 9 (Alagia 3, Johnson 2, Smith 2, Robertson, Williams); Indiana 6 (Buckner 2, Wilkerson 2, Benson, May). SHOOTING FG Pct. FT Pct. St. John's 33-71 .464 4-7 .571 Indiana 37-71 .521 16-18 .899 Officials: Bob Harrold and Booker Turner Attendance: 11,345 (capacity)