IU, UNC promise a better rematch

IU, UNC promise a better rematch

By Bob Hammel, The Herald-Telephone

March 30, 1981

From the March 30, 1981 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

PHILADELPHIA – The new year was hours away as the two men stood in acorridor of the Kansas City airport. They were off by themselves, involvedin a quiet and not so jovial conversation. Nearby, a man said, “There standthe two best basketball coaches in America.”

“Yeah,” another said. “And they both just got their butt beat.”

Defeat hasn’t happened often to Dean Smith of North Carolina and Bob Knightof Indiana. But the night before the chance meeting in mid-America, Smith’sNorth Carolina team had been walloped by Minnesota in Los Angeles, 76-60,and Knight’s Indiana team had lost a consolation-round in Hawaii to PanAmerican, 66-60.

Smith laughed as he recalled the meeting Sunday, the day before his team andKnight’s will meet to pick the 1981 national collegiate basketballchampionship.

“Bobby was telling me, ‘I just can’t play (Ray) Tolbert and (Landon) Turnertogether,'” Smith said.

“And I was asking him: ‘Does Minnesota always shoot that well? From that farout?'”

Only 11 days earlier in Smith’s home base, Chapel Hill, North Carolina hadbroken a tie in the last five minutes and whipped Indiana 65-56.

That is the game that may have more relevance on tonight’s nationalchampionship game (8:15, Ch. 2, 13) than the coinciding defeats the two tookin holiday tournament play.

North Carolina won because:

• The Tar Heels’ front line outrebounded Indiana’s 24-8;

• Carolina guard Jimmy Black had on of his best games of the season, at IUall-American Isiah Thomas’s expense.

The December game offered little hint of the championship game it waspreviewing. Play was sloppy; Indiana committed 18 turnovers and NorthCarolina 20.

Now, 99 days later, the two have stormed through NCAA tournament oppositionto get to the championship game with few real scares behind them.

North Carolina had a 5-point game with Utah on the Utes’ homecourt inregional play, but otherwise the Heels have drubbed their tournamentopponents.

Pittsburgh fell, 74-57; Kansas State, 82-68, and Virginia, the team thatwhipped Carolina twice during the season, 78-65.

After dumping Virginia in the semifinals Saturday, Smith quipped: “We willtrade those other two for this one.”

Knght knows the feeling. He’s 0-2 against Smith at the moment, IU losing atAssembly Hall, 61-57, a year ago on the week that both Mike Woodson andRandy Wittman were ruled out, then by the 65-56 margin at Chapel Hill thisseason.

Smith has a team in the championship game for the third time and in theFinal Four Four for the sixth time in his brilliantly successful years asTar Heel coach.

His tenure doubles Knight’s 10 seasons at IU. So do his Final Four trips.However, Knight is in the final game for the second time, and he’s after hissecond national championship; Smith his first.

Smith is 436-142 (.754) in his 20 Carolina seasons; Knight, 230-68 (.772) inhis 10 at IU. For 15 years, Smith’s teams have never finished lower thansecond in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and he has won nine regular-seasonACC titles, eight more in the league’s post-season tournament. The currentseason was his 11th straight 20-victory year, his eighth team to win atleast 25 games.

Knight’s IU teams have won six Big Ten championships in the last nine years.They are the dominant figure in the two dominant basketball leagues in thenation, and tonight they take their theories and their chess game into themain arena.

The dominant players in the game tonight probably will be North Carolina’sAl Wood and IU’s Isiah Thomas, teammates on the U.S. Olympic team lastsummer.

Wood set on NCAA semifinal scoring record Saturday with a career high of 39against Virginia. Thomas had a 39-point game earlier this year againstMichigan.

Wood, at 6-6, is the match-up problem for the Hoosiers up front – too quickfor most big men to play, too big for most quick men. Smith called him “atrue all-American.” Knight said, “He plays 6-8.”

Knight called Thomas “an absolutely outstanding player” whose spot on theconsensus all-America teams this year “is very much deserved.”

Thomas mathes up with Black, who scored 11 second-half points and had sixassists in combining with Wood (18 points) to lead North Carolina to victoryin the teams’ first game.

Indiana also hopes to get the sort of game from Ray Tolbert that the 6-9senior played regularly throughout the last three plays. Tolbert had only 8points and 1 rebound in the December game, and he got away to anineffectivestart Saturday against Louisianna State.

Landon Turner, who scored 20 points to lead the Hoosiers in the LSU game,started but hit only 4 of 12 shots in the first Carolina-IU game. He may getthe opening assignment on Wood, after playing well against quick forwardsKevin Boyle (Iowa), Mike McGee (Michigan) and Albert King (Maryland).

North Carolina varies defenses throughout a game, but Smith says “everythingstarts with a good man-to-man.”

The only lineup change either has made from the group that started the firstgame moved 6-9 freshman Sam Perkins into the Carolina starting combination.

Perkins moved up when senior Pete Budko went out with an ankle injury inJanuary. Perkins, named the ACC’s freshman of the year, had been playing alot before the Budko injury. He missed double figures in only four games allyear.

Indiana is 3-for-3 in NCAA championship games, going into tonight’s play.Indiana beat Kansas in the final game in both 1940 and 1953 and Michigan in1976.

The 1953 Jayhawks team had a reserve guard named Dean Smith. The yearbefore, Smith had the same role on the 1952 national championship game atKansas. Tonight gives Smith a chance to move alongside Knight as the onlymen ever to play on and coach an NCAA basketball champion.

Knight did it as a reserve on the 1960 Ohio State championship team, addingthe 1976 title as a coach.

North Carolina did win an NCAA championship in 1957, whenFrank McGuirecoached the Tar-Heels to a 32-0 season.

That one ended with a triple-overtime victory over Kansas and WiltChamberlain. The 1957 North Carolina team and IU’s 1976 team share therecord for the best won-lost mark for a champion 32-0.

If Indiana wins tonight, the Hoosiers will claim the record from theopposite direction, too. They have lost nine times this year. The record fora champion is seven, by the Al McGuire team at Marquette that won the finalgame from Smith and North Carolina. That record will be tied, at least.Carolina has lost seven times.

The night’s program, at The Spectrum opens with LSU (31-4) meeting Virginia(28-4) in the third-place game.