Hoosiers move into tie with Iowa

Hoosiers move into tie with Iowa

by Bob Hammel, Friday Herald-Telephone

March 6, 1981

From the March 6, 1981 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

Steve Risley led Indiana on a second-half brush with perfection Thursday night, and it produced a 69-66 victory over Illinois and a boost into co-leadership in the Big Ten for IU.

The Hoosiers pulled even with Iowa, a 17-70 loser at Michigan State Thursday night. The league race has one round left. Iowa (13-4) will play at Ohio State Saturday afternoon in the Big Ten’s game of the week (3:30 p.m., Ch. 2, 13), and Indiana will play the Hawkeyes’ upsetters at Michigan State Saturday night (8 o’clock, no television).

Risley, a 6-8 senior from Lawrence Central, came off the bench with four minutes gone in the second half and IU down, 37-36.

He had been in the game just 31 seconds when he drove to the middle of the Illinois defense and put up a soft shot that gave Indiana a 38-37 lead.

Steve Risley slips inside for 2 against Illinois, March 5, 1981. H-T file photo

The Hoosiers fell back, 49-45, before Risley and another reserve, Jim Thomas, found the same hole in the Illini 3-2 zone, on the left baseline, for baskets that tied the game, 49-49, with 9:40 to play.

“Their wingman (6-8 Mark Smith) had to move up to cover Randy (Wittman), because he’s one of our best shooters,” Risley said. Smith agreed. “The center (6-10 James Griffin) has come out,” Smith said. “If he’s not quick enough, you’re in trouble.”

The two baskets, which followed an earlier Risley shot from the same area, convinced Illini coach Lou Henson to make a countermove. He substituted 6-11 Derek Holcomb for Griffin and went to a man-to-man defense.

The game turned golden for a few minutes. The two NCAA tournament-bound teams scored on seven straight possessions, snatching the lead back and forth..

Illinois was ahead, 56-55, when IU coach Bob Knight took a time out with 6:13 to go.

“As long as they were in a man-to-man, we wanted to go with our spread offense,” Knight said. The Hoosiers played it the rest of the way, and it paid dividends – both immediate and long-range.

Ray Tolbert set a screen that freed Randy Wittman for a cut to the basket, and Risley’s pass from the top of the foul circle gave Wittman the layup that popped Indiana on top for the final time, 57-56, with 5:50 left.

Coach Knight has a word with Randy Wittman during IU at Illinois, March 5, 1981. H-T file photo

At 4:08, the same play worked: Tolbert picking off Illini freshman Derek Harper and freeing Wittman for a pass from Isiah Thomas and a layup that made it 59-56.

Indiana didn’t score another field goal, and didn’t have to. The Hoosiers packed away one of their biggest victories of the year by hitting 10 straight free throws in the last 31/2 minutes.

Each time, some heat was on.Tolbert started the string by hitting both halves of a one-and-one with 3:20 left for a 61-58 lead. Risley rebounded Harper’s close-in miss to give Indiana the ball for the first time with a 3-point margin, and Jim Thomas was fouled. He also hit both shots on a one-and-one for a 63-58 lead at 3:01.

Guard Perry Range scored a rebound basket for Illinois with 2:19 left, but Isiah Thomas hit both halves of a two-shot foul at 1:54 to restore the margin at 65-60.

After Craig Tucker sliced into that with a jump shot at 0:37, but the Hoosiers avoided a foul by the desperate Illini until the clock was down to 0:18, and when fouled, Isiah Thomas hit two more free throws to lift IU out front, 67-62.

Griffin scored a rebound basket for Illinois and called time out with nine seconds left. Only two seconds ran off before Tolbert was fouled, and he clinched the Hoosier victory with a one-and-one conversation that gave IU the luxury of watching Johnson score for Illinois as time ran out.

“You just can’t see a lot better game than that,” Knight said. “I thought it was really well-played, just an awfully good college basketball game.

“We really only missed about three plays in the last eight minutes – we missed one lay-up and they got a couple put back on us. And that was it.”

The Hoosiers shot .800 (12-for-15) from the field and .944 (17-for18) from the free-throw line the last half. Risley scored 10 points, hitting all four shots he tried and both free throws awarded him.

Illinois, which would have pulled into a second-place tie with IU and kept its champion hopes alive going to the final day if it had won, may have miffed its victory chance in the first half.

Isiah weaves his way to the basket vs. the Illini, March 5, 1981. H-T file photo

With 5:32 to go in the half, Tucker drew foul No. 3 on Isiah Thomas, sending the Hoosier guard to the sidelines for the rest of the half. Tucker’s free throws gave Illinois a 24-20 lead.

But with a 28-26 lead and 2:36 left in the half, Henson took time out and put the Illini in their own spread offense. The Hoosiers backed off. Illinois ran off more than a minute before resuming the attack. It took a 25-foot shot by Smith a second ahead of the buzzer to give Illinois as big as a halftime lead as it had when Thomas left (32-28).

Thomas didn’t return shy. Barely more than a half-minute into the second half, he slapped the ball away from Holcomb for a steal and layup that tied the game, 32-32, the midpoint of an 8-point Hoosier run.

But three straight Hoosier turnovers let Illinois score 5 points in a row, reclaim the lead, and bring Risley on.

“I went in mainly to help on defense,” Risley said, “to drop drop off Holcomb and help jam up (forwards Eddie) Johnson and Smith. They’re two great offensive players. No one can cover them one-on-one.

“I just got open at the other end and hit some shots.

“This has to be the biggest game I’ve ever helped win here. It was a great team win.”

Tolbert and Isiah Thomas had 14 points each and Wittman 13 for Indiana – 20-9 now for Knight’s eighth 20-victory season in his 10 seasons as IU’s coach.

The Hoosiers’ big second half lifted their shooting to .531 for the game, only the fifth time an Illini opponent has topped .500 this year. Indiana did it in both games, shooting . 537 in a January 78-61 victory over the Illini at IU’s Assembly Hall. IU’s .944 free-throw mark was the Hoosiers’ best this year and the best by any team in the Bid Ten game.

Illinois (19-7) shot .417. Smith had 16 points, Tucker 14 and Johnson 12 for the Illini, who finish against Northwestern Saturday at Champaign.

Turner, f 24 3-6 2-2 0 1 1 0 3 8
Kitchel, f 19 1-5 2-2 3 1 0 0 1 4
Tolbert, c 40 5-8 4-4 8 2 1 0 4 14
I. Thomas, g 34 5-9 4-4 3 5 0 1 3 14
Wittman, g 40 6-10 1-2 3 4 0 0 1 13
Grunwald 6 0-3 0-0 1 0 0 0 0 0
J. Thomas 21 2-4 2-2 6 1 0 1 1 6
Risley 16 4-4 2-2 4 2 0 0 1 10
Team 1
Totals 26-49 16-20 29 16 2 2 14 69
Johnson, f 37 5-12 2-2 R 2 0 1 4 12
Smith, f 35 6-12 4-6 R 3 0 2 4 16
Holcomb, c 23 2-4 0-2 R 3 2 3 0 4
Harper, g 36 3-13 0-0 R 4 2 1 0 6
Range, g 33 3-11 2-2 R 2 0 0 2 8
Leonard 4 0-0 0-0 R 0 0 0 0 0
Griffin 10 3-3 0-0 R 0 1 0 0 6
Tucker 22 3-5 8-8 R 1 0 0 3 14
Team 2
Totals 25-60 16-20 31 15 5 7 13 66
Indiana 28 41 – 69
Illinois 32 34 – 66
Errors – Indiana 9, Illinois 8.
FG Pct. FT Pct.
Indiana 26-49 0.531 17-18 0.944
Illinois 25-60 0.417 16-20 0.8
Officials – Jim Bain, Verl Sell, Ralph Rosser.
Attendance – 16,663 (sellout).