Altenberger’s ‘six-shooter’ holds up IU’s Big Ten bid

Altenberger’s ‘six-shooter’ holds up IU’s Big Ten bid

By Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

March 2, 1987

From the March 2, 1987 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – As a rule, the three-point shot that was supposed to have been such a boon to Indiana has been a late-season killer.

Doug Altenberger hit six of them for Illinois Sunday, sprinkling them in with exquisite timing. And, when Indiana tried for one in the final seconds, Illinois – and chiefly Altenberger – shut off the chance.

The result was a 69-67 Illini victory that boosted Purdue into first place as the Big Ten’s final week began.

The Boilermakers, who used three-point shots at vital times to defeat Indiana Thursday at West Lafayette, are 14-2 in Big Ten play and 23-3 overall going into games Wednesday night at Michigan State (8:05, Ch. 4) and Saturday afternoon at Michigan (4:05, CBS). Indiana, 14-3 in the Big Ten and 23-4 overall, closes its season Saturday at home against Ohio State (2:05 p.m., Ch. 4).

Altenberger and fellow seniors Ken Norman and Tony Wysinger were closing out their home-court careers Sunday, and they helped the Illini jump out to a 13-6 lead. It was 5-0 before Indiana ever got the ball in its court. Twice in a row, the Hoosiers turned the ball over against the Illinois press, and the second time became a five-point sequence on a basket by Steve Bardo, a rebound of Bardo’s missed free throw and a three-point shot by Altenberger.

From the 13-6 hole, though, Indiana got some sniping of its own from Keith Smart in an 18-3 counterspurt that shot the Hoosiers into a 24-16 lead. Just as the biggest crowd in Assembly Hall history (16,793) was starting to get surly toward the home boys. Altenberger stopped the Indiana charge with another three-pointer. When Illinois pulled within 31-29, he hit another to cap the Illini comeback and put them ahead.

Not everything was coming long-distance. Norman scored 12 points in the last seven minutes of the half in leading a 17-6 charge that provided a 40-36 halftime lead. He just missed adding to the margin. His jump shot at the buzzer was launched a half-second late officials ruled.

Illinois threatened to put the Hoosiers away early in the second half. Another Altenberger three-pointer helped them jump the edge to 50-40 three minutes into the second half. With 10:20 to go, 7-foot sophomore Jens Kujawa looped in a short hook to put the Illini ahead 57-49.

Indiana wiped that out quickly on baskets by Smart and Garrett and two by Calloway. It was 59-59 after Norman and Garrett exchanged baskets, but up stepped Altenberger again.

The fast-disappearing lead was like bigger Illini margins that got away against Iowa (22 points) and Purdue (16). This time, Altenberger said he muttered to himself, “Dammit, they’re not going to come back.”

He self-fulfilled the prophecy with a three-point shot from the left corner with 5:30 left. After Calloway hit two free throws to cut the lead to 62-61, Altenberger hit another three-point shot. “That gave us a little leeway,” Altenberger said.

It didn’t last long. Daryl Thomas hit two free throws, Altenberger’s missed three-point try was rebounded by Smart, and Steve Alford drove to the basket that tied the game 65-65 with 2:39 to go.

From the March 2, 1987 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

The game-breakers came after that, and from an unexpected source: Kujawa, koo-yah-vuh by pronunciation, West German by birth, hero by hook. Kujawa, who has taken the starting center job away from heralded Lowell Hamilton, came on with 3:49 left when Hamilton fouled out. With 2:10 to go and the 65-65 score on the board, he rolled to his right and hooked a short shot over Garrett’s fingertips to put Illinois ahead.

Calloway, who had maneuvered his way to the two baskets that produced the 57-57 tie, tried to do it again but missed, and Kujawa claimed the rebound. Garrett fouled him on the play, and Kujawa, who had missed two one-and-one chances earlier in the game, hit both at 1:47 for a 69-65 lead.

Indiana cut it in half with one of its prettiest plays of the season: a high lob pass from Alford that the 6-foot-1 Smart caught far above the basket before slamming the ball through. Indiana got the ball back at 0:52 when Wysinger missed, and with 39 seconds left in the game, 33 on the shot clock, the Hoosiers took timeout.

The decision, Hoosier coach Bob Knight said, was “to wind the clock down, and if we were going to that, go for a win, rather than a tie.”

That meant a three-point shot, if a late opening could be found. Alford tried for it, but his way along the left side of the court behind the three-point line was clogged by three Illini and two Hoosier teammates. There were openings on the opposite side of the court, but by the time Alford – hounded by Altenberger and surrounded by other Illini – dribbled his way through the traffic jam, the shot clock was almost gone. His forced try from inside the three-point line bounced long, Garrett seemed to have a shot at it for an instant but had it slapped away and 6-foot-6 freshman Steve Bardo grabbed it standing under the Hoosier basket.

Smart fouled Bardo at 0:04, Bardo missed his one-and-one chance, but when Alford tried to throw a 40-foot shot up Bardo reached in to swat it aside – a daring play that worked.

“We would never do it,” Henson said, the “we” covering Illini coaches. “Steve did it and it worked out, but you just don’t do it.

“I was a little surprised.”

The three Illini seniors combined for 54 points – 24 by Norman, 20 by Altenberger and 10 by Wysinger (despite a 4-for-12 shooting night for the 5-foot-10 guard). “Both Doug and Ken played excellent offensive basketball,” Henson said. “Had they not had good games offensively, I don’t think we would have won. The shooting was really poor, other than those two players.” Altenberger and Norman hit 17 of the 29 shots they took; the rest of the Illini hit 10 of 30.

Smart, 9-for-13 with 6 rebounds; led Indiana with 19 points, while Alford (6-for-16 shooting but author of 8 assists) and Garrett (8 rebounds and 4 blocked shots) scored 17 each.

“Garrett and Norman played awfully hard,” Knight said, “and I think both played very well against one another. Norman was extremely good in the last 10 minutes of the first half. I thought he played about as well as a kid can play.”

Altenberger’s 6-for-10 day from three-point range made Illinois and Purdue a combined 13-for-21 the last two games, while Indiana countered with 3-for-9 – a 39-9 difference in points. Altenberger’s defensive play was a key Sunday, as it was in the first IU-Illinois game. Alford, who has averaged 3.3 three-pointers per game against Indiana’s 25 other opponents, was blanked on those for the only time all year Jan. 28 against Illinois and the Hoosiers were able to get him freed for just one Sunday.

Calloway 2-7 4-7 3 8
Thomas 1-2 2-3 2 4
Garrett 8-15 0-0 8 17
Alford 6-16 4-5 3 17
Smart 9-13 0-0 6 19
Eyl 1-1 0-0 1 2
Hillman 0-0 0-0 0 0
Pelkowski 0-1 0-0 0 0
Smith 0-0 0-0 1 0
Totals 27-55 11-17 26 67
Norman 10-17 4-5 8 24
Altenberger 7-12 0-0 4 20
Kujawa 2-5 2-3 6 6
Wysinger 4-12 2-2 1 10
Bardo 2-5 1-4 7 5
Hamilton 1-3 0-1 4 2
Blackwell 1-5 0-0 3 2
Gill 0-0 0-0 0 0
Totals 27-59 9-15 36 69
Indiana 36 31 – 67
Illinois 40 29 – 69
Attendance: 16,793