Smart’s show lifts Hoosiers to 1987 title

Smart’s show lifts Hoosiers to 1987 title

By Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

March 31, 1987

NEW ORLEANS – College basketball’s most famous jump shot of the 1980s imprinted Michael Jordan on the public’s mind.

It came the only other time the NCAA basketball Final Four met in the Louisiana Superdome – when freshman Jordan’s shot with 16 seconds to go gave North Carolina a 63-62 victory over Georgetown in the 1982 finals.

Jordan, the game’s greatest professional scorer now, wore No. 23 when he launched that shot.

Keith Smart, one of the few athletes blessed enough to be mentioned in the same broad category with Jordan, wore No. 23, operated on the same side of the same end of the Superdome court, and sank the basket Monday night that made Indiana’s Hoosiers the kings of collegiate basketball for 1987.

Smart took a pass from Daryl Thomas and hit a 16-foot shot from the baseline for a 74-73 Indiana victory over Syracuse.

It was Indiana’s fifth NCAA basketball championship and third under coach Bob Knight, only the third man in the 49-year history of the tournament to coach more than two teams to the championship.

With five championships, Indiana caught up with Kentucky for the first time in almost 40 years. Only UCLA, with its run of 10 championships in 12 years under Johnny Wooden (1964 to ’75), has more.

The Hoosiers were due to arrive at Monroe County Airport late this morning, with a pep rally and welcome for the team to follow at Assembly Hall.

Smart, who grew up in nearby Baton Rouge but had no college offers when he came out of high school, won the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player award. He went on the Final Four all-tournament team along with his all-America teammate, Steve Alford (a game-high 23 points), Sherman Douglas and Derrick Coleman of Syracuse and Armon Gilliam of No. 1-ranked Nevada-Las Vegas, eliminated Saturday by Indiana, 97-93.

Smart’s story became one of the most familiar at the Final Four because he was one of the few Louisiana natives in the Superdome show.

Just 5-foot-3 as a high school junior, he played little on a talented team. At about 5-6 as a senior, he had won a starting job but his year ended in the third game when he broke his left wrist.

His high school coach talked the coach at William Penn College into taking him, sight unseen. Before he could enroll at the Iowa school, however, he refractured the wrist in a motorcycle accident. The scholarship offer was dropped. “Five-six guys with a broken arm and dumb enough to ride motorcycles aren’t much in demand,” Knight said of Smart Sunday.

Smart had his own description for the William Penn snub Monday night. He thanked God for his good fortune, quipping, “Him giving me that motorcycle was the best thing that could have happened.”

Smart, who has one more year of eligibility at Indiana, completed a run of events almost worthy of a Hoosiers-the-movie sequel.

Hoosier’s-the-team played their first two tournament rounds in Indianapolis, where one of the state’s all-time favorite players, Alford, delighted the mostly Indiana turnout with two strong performances.

Then Indiana went to Cincinnati for the Midwest Regional – and survived there because Rick Calloway of Cincinnati hit a rebound basket with six seconds left to beat Louisiana State, 77-76.

Then Monday night, in the national championship game, it was Louisiana native Smart who was the hero – for a long string of late-game plays, as well as the game-winning shot.

For Alford and Daryl Thomas (20 points), plus reserve Todd Meier, collegiate careers ended at the top.

“It obviously couldn’t have ended up any better for Daryl, Todd and me,” said Alford, who closed his career with an IU-record 2,438 points. The all-time record for a Big Ten player is 2,439 by Mike McGee of Michigan (1977-80). Alford had 749 points this year; the IU one-season record is 752 by Scott May of Indiana’s 1976 NCAA champions.