UAB goes down, but IU impressed

UAB goes down, but IU impressed

By Bob Hammel, Saturday Herald-Telephone

March 21, 1981

From the March 21, 1981 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

Two tournament opponents have left lasting memories with Indiana basketball followers in the last few years: Alabama, the team IU coach Bob Knight has called “the best we’ve ever played” because, in the Mideast Regional, it came closest to derailing the unbeaten Hoosiers on their way to the 1976 national championship, and Alcorn State, which was unbeaten but hadn’t really won big-time recognition when it chased Indiana to the finish before losing in the 1979 NIT-champion Hoosiers’ quarterfinal test at home.

Add Alabama Birmingham to the list. The Blazers went down Friday night, 87-72,but left some scars before moving aside in the NCAA Mideast Regional at IU’s Assembly Hall.

The victory advanced Indiana to the regional championship game against St. Joseph’s at 1:07 p.m. Sunday (Ch. 2, 13). It’s the first time the Hoosiers have made it that far since they went right on to Philidelphia and won the ’76 tournament. Sunday’s winner also gets a trip to Philidelphia, where the finals have returner for the first time in five years.

Randy Wittman’s best offensive night as a Hoosier, 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting,helped Indiana get away from UAB’s upset attempt.

Wittman didn’t feel off to a landmark gamewhen the man he was guarding, Oliver Robinson, stung him for all the Blazer points as he put his team ahead, 9-8.”I was just trying to control him, but he came out and hit his first four shots,” Wittman said. “That doesn’t help your confidence a lot.”

Robinson’s fourth basket and three in a row by left-hander Chris Giles helped UAB open a 25-19 lead with 9:24 left in the half.

Wittman fired over the Blazers’ zone to cut into the lead, then sniped again nex time downcourt, missed but grabbed his own rebound and put it back in for a 25-23 game.

Indiana used the points for a springboardto a 38-31 lead that still was 42-37 at halftime – Wittman already the author of 14 points by then.

Wittman also had, not really reluctantly, handed defensive assignments against Robinson over to sophomore Jim Thomas by then. “If Alabama Birmingham was better known, Robinson would be up there on the all-America list, Wittman said. “He is really a good player.

“But when James came in (just after the two Wittman baskets, with 8:03 left in the half and UAB ahead, 27-23), it gave us a lift.”

Thomas went in because Landon Turner picked up three fouls and sat down in the game’s first five minutes and Steve Risley, vital to the Hoosiers in their two season-closing victories at Illinois and Michigan State, didn’t have the answers this time for the problems posed by the swift Blazers.

“We needed a little more quickness,” Knight said, ” and Jimmy Thomas just about leads our club in rebounds per minute.”

Thomas did enough closing out the first halfto win a starting spot in the lineup for the second half. When Craig Lane opened the half with a rebound basket that pulled UAB within 42-39, Thomas stepped into an opening in the Blazer zone and hit the first Hoosier shot. Minutes later, he hit from the same place, and IU’s lead had jumped back to 50-41.

Alabama Birmingham never got it under 7 again, but the Hoosiers had to wait awhile before edging into a comfortable lead. It was 68-60 with 8 minutes left and Indiana had already gone to a spread offense to look for layups and burn some time when Isiah Thomas cut for the basket but missed a layup in traffic. UAB hustled the ball downcourt to Giles in a bid to pull within 6.

From the March 21, 1981 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

His shot missed, and Jim Thomas rebounded. Seconds later, Isiah Thomas zipped a pass to Ray Tolbert for a reverse dunk that restored a 10-point margin for the Hoosiers.

When UAB’s Donny Speer missed, Jim Thomas again rebounded and floated a pass to Tolbertbreaking downcourt for another dunk that became a 3-point play for a 73-60 IU lead with 61/2 minutes left.

UAB has the lead down to 77-70 with 21/2 minutes leftwhen Isiah Thomas went to the free-throw line three times in 59 seconds and hit both halves of a one-and-one each timeto get Indiana out of catching range.

Isiah Thomas had a couple of shots rammed back at him when he went for baskets off the hoosier spread but he had another big offensive night: 27 points (including 13-for-15 on free throws) and 8 assists. Besides Wittman’s 20, Indiana got 17 points from Tolbert, who led both teams with 9 rebounds.

Robinson finished with 17 points for UAB (23-9). Giles and quick Glen Marcus, Robinson’s back-court partner, had 13 points each.

“I feel as though we could have beaten an aweful lot of teams tonight,” UAB coach Gene Bartow said. “But this is another outstanding Bob Knight team.

“We’re obviously disappointed. We played hard and we played well. We wish them well in the tournament.”

The Hoosiers did a lot of sweating on a night when they outshot UAB, .525 to .429; had a 41-33 rebounding edge, and committed only 7 turnovers.

“That’s an excellent basketball team,” Knight said. “They came in here to play hard and play to win, and they certainly did that.”

ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM 72
M FG FT R A BS ST PF TP
Giles,f 39 6-11 1-3 8 1 0 1 3 13
Lane, f 13 1-5 0-2 3 0 0 0 4 2
Speer, c 23 3-8 2-2 7 0 1 0 3 8
Robinson, g 38 6-15 5-5 2 1 0 0 4 17
Marcus, g 28 6-10 1-1 1 4 0 1 5 13
Anchrum 18 2-5 3-4 3 0 2 0 5 7
Nicholas 7 0-0 1-2 1 0 0 0 0 1
Morris 24 1-4 4-4 2 1 0 0 0 6
Foster 5 2-3 1-1 1 0 0 1 5 5
Almquist 1 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Simcik 1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
McCammon 1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Richards 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bartow 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Team 4
Totals 27-63 18-24 33 7 3 3 29 72
INDIANA 87
M FG FT R A BS ST PF TP
Kitchel, f 17 3-4 3-4 1 0 0 0 3 9
Turner, f 11 0-3 0-2 1 0 1 0 3 0
Tolbert, c 39 8-12 1-1 9 2 1 0 3 17
I. Thomas, g 39 7-12 13-15 4 8 0 3 4 27
Wittman, g 40 7-11 6-7 4 3 0 1 1 20
Risley 7 0-1 0-0 2 0 0 0 2 0
J. Thomas 27 3-4 1-2 6 3 0 0 2 7
Bouchie 16 2-7 1-2 3 2 0 1 2 5
Isenbarger 1 0-0 0-0 1 1 0 0 0 0
Franz 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brown 1 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Grunwald 1 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Team 9
Totals 31-59 25-33 41 19 2 5 20 87
SCORE BY HALVES
Alabama-Birmingham 37 35 – 72
Indiana 42 45 – 87
Errors – Alabama-Birmingham 11, Indiana 7.
SHOOTING
FG Pct. FT Pct.
Alabama-Birmingham 27-63 0.429 18-24 0.75
Indiana 31-59 0.525 25-33 0.758
Officials – Bobby Dibler (WAC), Dale Kelly (SEC), James Howell (Southern).
Attendance – 17,091.