South Region Finals
by Jon Gonzalez
No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 10 Kent State
Last year, after Indiana’s first round loss to Kent State in the NCAA Tournament, there were grumblings. Not that there hadn’t been doubts all year long about the interim coach who took Bobby Knight’s place, but a first round loss magnifies everything. Despite saving a season on the midst of collapse, Mike Davis was still viewed by many in Bloomington as the proverbial thumb in the dam, last ditch replacement until a better alternative is brought in. But after pleading and proving, Davis got a chance to keep his job and on Saturday night, displayed the ultimate proof of why he is fit to patrol the hallowed Indiana sidelines. Davis avenged his most disappointing loss in the NCAA Tournament with his most important victory, a fitting triumph over Kent State.
Behind a brilliant display of three-point marksmanship that saw Indiana make 15 of 19 long rangers (78.9 percent), Indiana defeated the Golden Flashes 81-69.
The Hoosiers were not to be denied in their first regional final since 1993. Indiana made 12 of their first 18 shots, including eight three-pointers and led by 20 with eight minutes to go in the first half. By the halftime mark, the Hoosiers were up 40-28.
Dane Fife led IU with 17 points while Kyle Hornsby chipped in with 16 points. Fife was also almost perfect from three-point land, converting five of six shots. As a team, the Hoosiers shot 64 percent from the field.
To Kent State’s credit, it’s not as if the scrappy Flashes played that bad, it was just that the Hoosiers were just too good. Kent tried to do a lot of things defensively but could not stop Indiana from making its shots. The Flashes thought they had found an answer when they shut down Indiana (24-11) for a stretch during a 13-0 run to push the score to 59-52 in the second half. But Indiana stopped the bleeding with a timely three pointer.
Antonio Gates led Kent (30-6) with 22 points while star guard Trevor Huffman was held to a lackluster eight points.
Regardless of the outcome, the Flashes still had a remarkable season in only their third tournament trip. They reached their first-ever regional final and pushed their tourney win total to four. The Flashes had previously won only one tournament game, last year’s shocker against Indiana.
For Indiana, it’s the Hoosiers first Final Four since 1992 and they will be gunning for their first championship since 1987.
Indiana will take on Oklahoma, 81-75 winners over Missouri, in one of next Saturday’s National Semifinals.