Tuesday afternoon on the tube, ESPN Classic featured a terrific game from 1987 between Indiana and Michigan. An All-American guard who eventually became a fairly prominent college coach named Steve Alford won the game with a coast-to-coast dash after a missed Wolverines free throw, giving the Hoosiers an 85-84 win in a season that ended with IU’s last national championship.
The game was an enjoyable trip back in time, before conference (over)expansion, diminished rivalries (the first often causing the second) and shoe companies issuing teams different (and usually uglier) uniforms for seemingly every game. It reminded us how these two used to be fierce rivals, and the games between Bob Knight and Bill Frieder’s teams at that time were always must-watch. (Though in fairness, almost everyone in the Big Ten targeted the Hoosiers in those days)
Like so many conference foes now, the Hoosiers and Wolverines are more acquaintances than consistently fierce rivals, the product of today’s bloated leagues where yearly home-and-homes are no longer a given. Still, their only meeting this year looked juicy on paper, matching one top 25 team and another not far from it.
The game played out almost as anticipated-for about 11 minutes. Unfortunately for Michigan, college halves are 20 minutes, not 12, and those final eight minutes of the first half were a killer as Indiana turned the game around and went on to an 80-67 win that wasn’t as close as the final score.
The Wolverines actually led 24-20 late in the first half. The next thing one knew, Indiana held a 45-24 halftime lead. By the time the Hoosiers’ 28-0 run was over early in the second half, this one was all but over.
The win goes another step in confirming what the scores seemed to be indicating, but the quality of opponents has made hard to call with certainty: that IU is rounding into a very nice team. The Hoosiers have won 14 of 15, often with authority. This was easily their most impressive win on the road, though.
Michigan, meanwhile, continues to make us uncomfortable. The Wolverines are a solid 17-6 overall and likely will be in the NCAA Tournament, but all six of their losses now are by at least 11 points. Frankly, only one of them was even close-the others were of such decisive nature to make the team look overmatched against top competition.
- Duke rallied in the second half to defeat Georgia Tech 80-71, but the biggest news from this one came before the game. Mike Krzyzewski missed the contest are feeling ill following a team meal Monday night. It’s the first game Coach K has missed since sitting games in the 1994-95 season due to back surgery, also the last time the Blue Devils missed the NCAA Tournament.
- Butler earned a key win in the Big East, defeating Georgetown 87-76 behind 35 points from Kelan Martin. After the game, though, it was learned that the Bulldogs were playing with heavy hearts again, as the six-month old son of assistant coach Emerson Kampen had passed away Monday due to a genetic disease. Heartbreaking news, and it’s impossible to not feel for the Butler program after the year it has had.
- Sadly, there was more tragic news, as Mercer senior Jibri Bryan was shot and killed Tuesday at a convenience store near campus, an incident with few answers or explanations at this time that is under investigation. Bryan was a member of the Bears team that defeated Duke in the 2013 NCAA tourney and this year had recently returned to play after missing 10 games with a knee injury.
- West Virginia responded nicely from an ugly loss at Florida on Saturday, putting together a 9-0 run in the final 1:20 to defeat Iowa State 81-76 at always-tough Hilton Coliseum. Jaysean Paige and Devin Williams were clutch, with Paige scoring 23 off the bench including a huge 3 late and Williams pummeling ISU inside with 17 points and 18 rebounds, nearly outrebounding the Cyclones himself (WVU won the boards 41-23). Very reminiscent of the NCAA tourney last year when UAB hammered Iowa State on the glass, not a good sign in Ames.
- DePaul has had a rough season but every so often has caused trouble, with wins over George Washington, Marquette and now Providence. The Friars lost Ben Bentil to injury in the first half, certainly a factor in their 77-70 loss that shows just how fragile PC is if it loses him or Kris Dunn for significant amounts of time.
- Just when some were ready to get back on the Kentucky bandwagon, the Wildcats built a 21-point over Tennessee-and lost. The Volunteers rallied hard for an 84-77 win, adding another to a growing list of very nice home conquests. One way to come back from being down 34-13 late in the first half of a game: shoot 30 of 34 from the foul line.
- Eastern Michigan’s Raven Lee exploded for 46 points, hitting nine three-pointers in a 94-69 win over Miami (Ohio). Lee’s stat line: 11 of 16 from the field, 9 of 11 from 3-point land, 15 of 16 free throws all in just 24 minutes off the bench. He also added one assist and no rebounds…no one will quibble with that when you’re lighting up an opponent for nearly 50.
- Also in the MAC, Akron is now 18-4 after a very nice 80-68 win at Ohio. More and more, the Zips look like the team to beat in this league. Preseason favorite Central Michigan will have something to say about that, though, as the Chippewas are heating up. CMU dominated Kent State 88-61, shooting 60.7% and getting six players scoring in double figures.
- In the ACC, Clemson and Syracuse both escaped possible damaging losses. The Tigers trailed Wake Forest 28-20 at halftime but then ripped off 56 second half points to win easily 76-62. Meanwhile, Syracuse was down seven with just over two minutes left in regulation but rallied to get to overtime, where it disposed of Virginia Tech 68-60.
- San Diego State is now 10-0 in the Mountain West, but it was far from easy as the Aztecs scraped by Colorado State 69-67.
- Houston Baptist saw its 10-game winning streak and undefeated Southland record come to an end with a 79-72 loss to Abilene Christian. Stephen F. Austin is now in sole possession of first in the conference.
- Liberty now has won five in a row and tightened up the Big South race with an 88-77 win over previous co-leader Winthrop. Just like last year, it’s a tightly bunched group in this league-seven teams are within two games of first place.
- It’s not Catholics vs. Convicts in football, but the latest Notre Dame/Miami (Fla.) basketball matchup is one of the bigger games these two have ever played on the hardwood. The Hurricanes are still safely in the rankings, while the Fighting Irish are just outside the polls. (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2).
- Several key games in the Atlantic 10 tonight: Davidson is at George Washington, VCU has a tricky game at La Salle, and St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph’s square off, with the Hawks looking for another more-than solid if not completely spectacular win.
- Coming off being physically handled by Wichita State at home, Evansville now has a tough road game at Northern Iowa. Also in the MVC, Southern Illinois is at Wichita State, and while there seems to be little that will get in the way of the Shockers at this point, the Salukis will have something to prove after being hammered by WSU in Carbondale three weeks ago.
- Creighton is at Villanova (8 p.m., CBSSN) in the Big East, while another key game has Marquette at Seton Hall (8:30 p.m., FS1), with the Pirates looking to sweep the season series.
- Kansas State takes on Kansas (9 p.m., ESPN2), and a big key for the Wildcats having a reasonable chance is the health of freshman point guard Kamau Stokes, who is questionable after injuring his knee Saturday in K-State’s win over Mississippi.
- The Arizona schools are on their Washington trip in the Pac-12, with Arizona at Washington State and Arizona State at Washington (11 p.m., ESPNU).
Have a good Wednesday.