Indiana conquers UCLA again, 65-51

Indiana conquers UCLA again, 65-51

by Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

March 28, 1976

From the March 28, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

PHILADELPHIA – Indiana brushed aside another giant Saturday and now has only Big Ten rival Michigan between it and a national championship to crown one of college basketball’s greatest seasons.

UCLA, the sport’s standard of excellence for the basketball lifetime of the unbeaten Hoosiers, fell in semifinal play Saturday afternoon at The Spectrum, 65-51.

Michigan made it an unprecedented all-Big Ten final by routing Rutgers in the other semifinal game, 86-70. So the Wolverines, losers in two tense struggles with Indiana this year – 80-74 at Ann Arbor and 74-69 in overtime at IU – will get a third shot with a season’s national supremacy on the line, the Big Ten’s first NCAA championship in 16 years assured.

“Michigan is the best basketball team we played this year,” Knight said. “But I think it’s great that we’re playing them. I don’t think there’s ever been anything that says more about Big Ten basketball than our two teams going through two tough regionals and playing for the national championship.”

The game will start at 8:15 p.m. Monday (Ch. 2, 6). Indiana will be after its third national championship to go with titles in 1940 and ’53 under the late Branch McCracken. Michigan has never won the national championship.

Indiana’s 31st straight victory this year was much like its first, an 84-64 whipping of UCLA on the neutral St. Louis Arena court.

Then, Indiana moved out to a 36-28 halftime lead and steadily pulled away. This time, it was 34-26 at halftime, and the Hoosiers opened a 12-point with the first two baskets of the second half. The lead never got below six afterward and was never wider than the final margin.

But there were more anxious moments in this one than the Hoosiers experienced in the game that shook the college world – particularly the part of it in Los Angeles – back in November.

This time, the Hoosiers were in trouble before they broke a sweat. Knight, fearing the inside play of UCLA’s 6-11 all-American forward, Richard Washington, pulled a surprise by opening the game with his 6-11 all-American, Kent Benson, assigned to guard Washington.

It backfired fast. Benson picked up one foul 25 feet from the basket when he played too tight on the slender Bruin, and he got a second on a rebounding play – with only 92 seconds gone.

Knight took his quickest time out of the season at 18:05 of the half to switch Tom Abernethy onto Washington – who had five points with UCLA ahead 7-2.

What followed was Abernethy’s finest hour in an under-acclaimed year … and almost his final nine. With 7:18 to go in the game and IU ahead by 10, Abernethy ran into Washington in center court away from the ball and crumpled with a bruise above his left knee.

He left the game and never returned, but the Hoosiers’ orthopedist, Dr. Merrill Ritter, said he should be available for Monday night’s championship game.

Before he left, he had an immense impact. He hit 7 of 8 shots and shut down Washington without a point those last 18 minutes of the first half, while Indiana was taking charge.

From the March 28, 1976 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

The Bruins last led at 19-17, Hoosier star Scott May – checked with 14 points on the day he set an IU one-season scoring record – tying the game with a jump shot at 7:41 and Benson teetering the Hoosiers ahead with two free throws at 7:26.

Baskets by Abernethy and Quinn Buckner completed an eight-point run that gave Indiana a 23-19 lead. It widened when Abernethy and Buckner again put baskets together and Benson hit a free throw for a 32-23 margin before closing at 34-26.

The Hoosiers didn’t go bolting away in the second half; they missed their first three shots, four of the first five.

But their defense was making inside shots unavailable to the Bruins, who couldn’t sink outside ones. And 6-7 Bob Wilkerson – having the best rebounding day ever by a Hoosier guard (19).

After Abernethy limped off, UCLA managed a run at the Hoosiers. Three close-in misses by Indiana went with two baskets by Bruin sub Gavin Smith to chop the lead to 52-46 with 6:04 left.

Indiana reacted with extra patience. They worked the ball for 1:45 before breaking May open for a drive to the basket – his shot missing but earning him two free throws that he sank with 4:18 to go.

Wilkerson rebounded Jim Spillane’s miss, and the Hoosiers held the ball again until Abernethy’s replacement, Jim Crews, was fouled with 2:12 to go. Crews missed the shot but fielded his own long rebound, and 10 seconds later May broke under the basket that put UCLA 10 down and all but out.

Wilkerson made enough big plays in those last two minutes to guarantee personally, that the lead would stand. His interception at 2:19 brought him a one-and-one free throw chance that he exploited for two points and a 60-48 lead.

Then with the last seconds being counted off in the Hoosiers cheering section, he smashed a shot by UCLA freshman Brad Holland so deep into IU’s attacking court that when Crews ran it down he had an easy, margin-fattening lay-up.

Benson’s 16 points led the Hoosiers, while Abernethy and May had 14 each and Buckner 12. Wilkerson’s day included only five points but three of those came when he slipped inside UCLA’s standout forward, Marques Johnson, for a rebound basket and free throw that opened a 45-32 edge in the breakaway minutes opening the second half. He also had seven assists to go with his mammoth rebound total that gave Indiana a solid 45-37 margin on the boards.

Forced to live or die with its outside game, UCLA died with paltry .344 shooting (to the Hoosiers .441 also sub-par).

The Bruins, dropping into a third-place match-up with Rutgers Monday night are 26-5 after their 10th straight Pacific 8 Conference and Far West regional titles.

Indiana became the first team in 10 years (Duke, in a two-game Bruin invasion of North Carolina in December, 1965) to beat UCLA twice in one season.

UCLA 51 M FG FT R A PF TP Washington, f 38 6-15 3-4 8 3 3 15 Johnson, f 26 6-10 0-1 6 0 2 12 Greenwood, c 26 2-5 1-2 10 0 2 5 Townsend, g 35 2-10 0-0 3 2 1 4 McCarter, g 26 2-9 0-0 4 3 5 4 Drollinger 8 0-3 2-2 1 0 3 2 Holland 4 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 0 Spillane 8 0-2 0-0 1 2 0 0 Smith 10 3-4 0-0 0 0 3 6 Hamilton 4 0-1 1-2 0 0 0 1 Vroman 3 0-0 0-0 1 0 2 0 Lippert 1 0-0 2-2 0 0 0 2 Olinde 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 Team 3 Totals 21-61 9-13 37 10 21 51 INDIANA 65 M FG FT R A PF TP May, f 40 5-16 4-6 4 5 2 14 Abernethy, f 33 7-8 0-1 6 2 3 14 Benson, c 38 6-15 4-6 9 0 4 16 Buckner, g 40 6-14 0-1 3 2 3 12 Wilkerson, g 38 1-4 3-4 19 7 3 5 Crews 11 1-2 2-3 3 3 0 4 Team 4 Totals 26-59 13-21 45 19 15 65 SCORE BY HALVES Indiana 34-31 65 UCLA 26-25 51 Errors: Indiana 16, UCLA 14 Steals: Indiana 7 (Wilkerson 2, May 2, Abernethy, Buckner, Crews); UCLA 5 (Townsend, 2, Johnson, Holland, Smith). Blocked shots: Indiana 1 (Wilkerson), UCLA 2 (Greenwood). SHOOTING FG Pct. FT Pct. Indiana 26-99 .441 13-21 .679 UCLA 21-61 .344 9-13 .692 Officials: Irv Brown and Jim Bain Attendance: 17,340 (capacity)