Hoosiers give IU fans a reason to party

Hoosiers give IU fans a reason to party

By Andy Graham, H-T Sports Writer

March 31, 1987

From the March 31, 1987 Bloomington Herald-Telephone

NEW ORLEANS – A time honored saying in this beautiful old Cajun-French river city is “Laissex les bontemps roulez.”

Let the good times roll.

Time to party.

“Hello to the people back home in Indiana and go ahead and tear it up and have all the fun you want to,” IU forward Rick Calloway said Monday night after the Hoosiers’ 74-73 NCAA title-game win over Syracuse at the Superdome. “You deserve it.”

“You supported us all year long, did a great job of never giving up on us and we’ll be there, whenever we get back, to party with you.”

Steve Alford, who closed out his IU career in championship fashion with a game-high 23 points (and 7 of 10 shooting from 3-point range), also had the home-folks in mind when he said, “This represents four years of hard work to bring back the championship tradition where it belongs – to Indiana and to Bloomington.

“And I’m sure Bloomington is having itself a good ol’ time right now.”

… Celebrating the grand accomplishment of a team that never, ever gave up.

“It’s that Indiana-faith,” said Dean Garrett, a Californian who has worked his way into Hoosier hearts, “Everybody was saying the same thing during the game – don’t give up.

“We’d been down in every tournament game since the first one (a 92-58 win over Fairfield), I think, and it was always just a matter of looking at the clock and saying, ‘Hey, the 40 minutes isn’t up yet.'”

Monday’s game, indeed, wasn’t up until 39:56 of play had elapsed. It was then that Keith Smart drilled the jumper from the left wing that will have an honored place in IU hoops history.

Smart got the ball for the shot from senior Daryl Thomas – who scored 20 points, hauled in seven rebounds and made his only assist of the game the biggest of his career.

Thomas had taken an entry pass from Smart and wheeled on the baseline to face Syracuse freshman Derrick Coleman.

“I came very close to taking a shot then,” Thomas said. “I turned and gave a shot-fake, thinking maybe I could draw a foul, but Coleman didn’t budge and I didn’t have a good angle at the basket. Keith flared to the corner and I kicked it back out to him.

“I turned again, trying to establish better post position, but saw Keith take a dribble and square-up. So, I moved in rebounding position. I didn’t even see the shot. I closed my eyes to be honest and said some quick Hail Marys. When I opened my eyes, the shot was through the net.”

IU’s third senior, Todd Meier, saw the shot from start to finish. “It was right in front of my face,” said Meier, whose knee problems sidelined him for so much of his IU career. “It was in all the way.

“What an incredible finish for us. We went from the nadir of a terrible sophomore year, when we were barely over .500 (19-14 in 1985) to this zenith. To 30 wins (against just four defeats). I can’t believe it. 30 wins.”

That Syracuse came so close to handing the Hoosiers a fifth and most crushing defeat garnered sympathy for the Orangemen from the Hoosiers.

“It definitely could have (gone either way tonight),” Alford said, “And my heart goes out to Syracuse. I know if I’d been on the other end, I’d be very disappointed.

“But, they’re a great group of guys and it was a very enjoyable game, playing against them. They’re a very good team, well-coached and it was a very good season for them.”

Garrett, who joined Thomas in battling 6-9 freshman Coleman and 6-10 junior center Rony Seikaly underneath all evening, said, “You’ve got to give Syracuse all the credit in the world. They played us a real tough game. Real tough. It was edge-of-your-seat game and must have been great from a spectator standpoint. Boy, they were tough. Daryl and I really had our hands full.

“It wasn’t necessarily more physical than some of our other games, but it was maybe the first time we’d played against two guys as big and strong as both Coleman and Seikaly are.”

Thomas was of like mind. “Seikaly and Coleman are both big, strong and quick and they play real well together,” Thomas said. “They’re hard to guard and very difficult to play against offensively.”

Still, Garrett noted, Coleman’s freshman status made him the man on the spot when the game was on the line.

“During the timeout (with 30 seconds left and the Orange up, 73-72, with the ball), we talked about who to foul and decided on Coleman,” Garrett said. “When you get in that sort of situation in that type of game, percentages (Coleman was a 69-percent free throw shooter), don’t count at all.”

Coleman missed short off the rim on the front end of his bonus chance at 0:28, setting the stage for Smart’s game-winner.

“I know Coleman has to feel bad, but he played a heckuva game,” Thomas said. “He got 19 rebound (and eight points) and even though he probably didn’t score as much as he wanted to in this game, he’ll do plenty of that in his career.

“He’s going to be just an outstanding player. He’s big and quick and real talented. He’s got a great future ahead of him. So does Syracuse. If Keith doesn’t make that shot, they’re national champs and that’s flat-out. When it comes down to the last shot, who’s to say who’s the winner in that case? Who knows what would’ve happened if we’d played 10 more minutes? One shot doesn’t decide how good a team is. You can look for Syracuse to be back in the future.”

The present, however, belongs to Thomas and teammates. Thomas spoke of IU’s unrelenting resiliency.

“We had our lapses (in the tournament), but were just very fortunate to come out of the lapses at opportune times,” Thomas said. “That’s not just luck, though, really.

“We played catch-up ball throughout the tournament and, really, through most of the latter part of the Big Ten season. A couple of Indiana teams I played on in the past, I feel, probably would have let Syracuse run away with it when they got that (8-point lead midway) in the second half.

“We hung in there. It was our last time out there as a team and we wanted to represent the university and our great fans as well as we possibly could.”

Few would argue that they did that by becoming national champs.

Tres bon, Hoosiers. Tres, tres bon.