If there was one defining date in IU basketball history, this might be it.
The list starts with the 1981 national championship game, a contest that almost didn’t happen after then-President Ronald Reagan was shot on Monday afternoon. However, the show did go on with Isiah Thomas proving to be the Hoosiers’ trump card with 23 points and five assists. Randy Wittman added 16 points, Landon Turner 12 points and Ray Tolbert 11 rebounds to overcome North Carolina’s talented trio of Al Wood (18 points), Sam Perkins (11) and James Worthy (7), 63-50.
Indiana did itself one better on March 30, 1987. Keith Smart scored 15 of his 21 points in the final 12 minutes, including “The Shot” from the left baseline with five seconds left to give IU its third and final national title under Bob Knight, 74-73. Smart was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, while Steve Alford (23 points) was also on the all-tournament team. It was enough to knock off Jim Boeheim’s Orangemen, who featured Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly and Derrick Coleman.
An encore came 15 years later when Mike Davis’ Hoosiers not only reached the final four but knocked off Kelvin Sampson’s Oklahoma Sooners in the national semifinals. Jeff Newton’s career-high 19 points paced a balanced attack of unlikely heroes to send Indiana to the title game for the first time since Smart’s shot. Jarrad Odle chipped in 11 points, Donald Perry 10, A.J. Moye nine and Jared Jeffries eight with Tom Coverdale hobbled by the ankle injury suffered in the regional final against Kent State.