End to come Monday, for IU, but it could be a happy one

End to come Monday, for IU, but it could be a happy one

By Andy Graham, Sunday Herald-Times

March 29, 1987

From the March 29, 1987 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

NEW ORLEANS – “From when this tournament started until now, I never knew when I’d have to take my Indiana jersey off for the final time,” Steve Alford said. “Now I know it will be Monday night.

“I just hope it’s about 45 minutes after that game is over and amid a whole lot of celebrating.”

The Hoosiers couldn’t help celebrating a little Saturday after their 97-93 win over Nevada-Las Vegas insured that their season and Alford’s career wouldn’t end until the last possible day. Monday, when IU meets Syracuse at the Superdome for the NCAA title.

While happy, however, the Hoosiers were keeping things in perspective.

“How do I feel?” said Steve Eyl, repeating the first question asked him in IU’s postgame lockerroom. “I feel like we have one more to go.”

Joe Hillman, who joined Eyl in providing IU productive play off the bench took steps to see that even Saturday’s celebrating wouldn’t start too soon.

When Eyl chased down a long rebound off a Mark Wade miss and went the length of the floor to score a layup and draw a fifth foul on Jarvis Basnight, IU finally seemed to have the scintillating game wrapped up with 13 seconds left. Before Eyl hit the ensuing free throw to give IU a 97-88 lead, Alford and Rick Calloway began congratulating each other only to have Hillman step in.

“Hey, 13 seconds can be a long time,” Hillman said. “Especially with the way Vegas was shooting the 3-pointers. A couple of those and it’s a tie game.”

Alford grinned when remembering Hillman’s admonishments.

“Well you know Joe’s still a little bit young and excitable,” Alford said needling delicately. “I’ve been around four years now and, at that time, I knew the game was over because they were out of timeouts.”

Certainly, however, the Hoosiers could never breathe easily until Eyl’s clinching play. UNLV getting 10 3-pointers and a game-high 38 points from senior guard “Fast Freddie” Banks and 32 more from strongman Armon “The Hammer” Gilliam, died so, so hard.

“Those guys come at you for 40 minutes,” Calloway said. “You can’t play a 37-minute game and expect to beat UNLV.”

Eyl was one of the Hoosiers assigned to try to slow down the Banks barrage.

“Freddie Banks is an incredible shooter,” Eyl said. “A lot of time, I had a hand in his face, but then I’d turn around and watch the ball go in, I see a lot of that in practice, though, with Steve (Alford, who scored a team-high 33 points) around.”

IU’s Daryl Thomas, who was limited to 18 minutes of play by foul trouble, had similar sentiments about Gilliam. “When a player is of Gilliam’s caliber, you can’t really shut them down,” Thomas said. “You just try to discourage him the best you can.

“But even when we’d deny Gilliam the shot, he’d kick the ball back out to Banks and ZING.”

The Rebels, mainly behind Banks and Gilliam, rallied from a 13-point deficit in the first half to forge three 2-point leads early in the second half. The Hoosiers, though, regained command quickly by proceeding according to plan.

“We don’t get frustrated,” Eyl said. “If we stay within our system, we’re going to stay happy.”

From the March 29, 1987 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

Calloway elaborated: “I think we did a pretty good job, for the most part, of keeping it a halfcourt game, which is our game. We kept our patience.

“We turned their trapping on defense to our advantage. They’d trap, but that would leave Steve, Keith (Smart) or I open for a (ball) reversal. On a reversal, it’s a shot for Steve, a drive and shot for Keith and a drive for me.

Thomas didn’t figure into the equation as often as he normally does and blamed himself for his foul problems:

“I was feeling really good before the game and probably TOO good. I was too excited and not playing with my head.

“The refs in the tournament aren’t letting you get away with anything, which is good. I’ve been really pleased with the officiating, because they tell you straight out how they’re going to call it and then do it. All you want is that kind of consistency.”

The Hoosiers generally capitalized when the calls gave them charity chances. IU hit 21 of 28 free throws (compared to the Rebels’ 10 of 19). Eyl, Hillman and Hoosier center Dean Garrett all missed front-ends of bonus tries down the stretch, though, which didn’t please Hillman.

“If we’d just made our free throws, the game wouldn’t have been nearly that close at the end,” Hillman said.

Alford uncharacteristically missed both attempts of a 2-shot opportunity with 8:28 to play, but still canned 11 of 13 overall.

“That (missing two straight) almost never happens and that really upsets me, but what pleases me is I came back to hit the rest of them (eight in a row) and some big ones down the stretch,” Alford said. “Dean and Joe and Steve Eyl all made great plays down the stretch for us, too.”

Hillman and Alford combined for a big one with 7:18 left when Hillman fed Garrett on a break, rebounded Garrett’s miss and passed back out top to Alford, who swished a 3-pointer to provide a 76-68 IU cushion.

“I had better get that rebound because I gave the ball to Dean on that break too early,” Hillman said. “I expected Dean to kick it back to me, actually, but it was a bad play on my part in giving him the ball too soon.

“I figured Steve would be trailing and, sure enough, there he was. I didn’t have to think twice about getting him the ball.”

Alford will be there to make sure the Hoosiers don’t get satisfied by simply making the final game.

“We can always think back to the North Carolina game back in ’83, when we beat a team of great athletes like Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins but came back two days later and cost ourselves a trip to the Final Four by losing to Virginia,” Alford said. “We don’t want to come up one game short again.”

If Indiana doesn’t, Alford will be a happy man when he peels that uniform off Monday night.