As you have likely heard by now, the University of Michigan has decided to rekindle the past as it hired former player Juwan Howard as its next head coach to replace John Beilein.
Howard isn’t just any former Wolverine player. He was one of the famous, or infamous, “Fab Five” that took the college basketball world by storm from 1991 to 1993.
Joining Howard at Michigan in making up perhaps the best known recruiting class in college basketball history were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.
This was no ordinary era of Indiana basketball either. During the Fab Five’s two seasons in Ann Arbor, IU went 58-11, setting up some classic battles between the Big Ten powers.
The teams met a total of four times in 1992 and 1993, with Indiana coming out on top in three of the four contests. The Hoosiers finished above Michigan in the standings both seasons.
Indiana also accomplished something that the Fab Five was unable to do during these seasons — they won a Big Ten title. The 1993 Indiana Hoosiers were a nearly perfect 17-1 in league play and may have been an Alan Henderson injury away from claiming the school’s sixth national title.
Let’s take a look back at the four meetings between Indiana and Michigan’s Fab Five.
JANUARY 21, 1992: No. 4 INDIANA 89 No. 16 MICHIGAN 74
Michigan erased a 12 point IU halftime lead, but a big second half from Damon Bailey provided the answer.
Foul trouble and turnovers haunted the Fab Five in their first visit to Assembly Hall. Webber, Jackson and Howard all fouled out, and the Wolverines committed 17 turnovers (on just 14 assists) while IU had only eight miscues on the day.
The Michigan fouls led to an Assembly Hall record 50 free throw attempts for IU, with five different players attempting at least six shots from the foul line.
Bailey and Calbert Cheaney led the way for Indiana with 22 points apiece as IU won its 12th straight game.
As he was known to do, Indiana head coach Bob Knight wasn’t ready to crown Bailey a hero after his big game.
“I’m waiting to see Bailey better than this,” Bob Knight told reporters. “He’s improved, he’s got a way to go.”
MARCH 8, 1992: No. 18 MICHIGAN 68 No. 2 INDIANA 60
IU shot just 36 percent from the field at Ann Arbor as the first place Hoosiers fell into a tie atop the Big Ten with Ohio State.
The cold shooting from the field translated to the free throw line. The Hoosiers got half as many attempts at the foul line as they did in Bloomington, and IU made only 14 of their 25 attempts.
Indiana trailed by eight at the half but managed to rally and take the lead, pleasing their head coach.
“I was really pleased with our effort to get back into it,” Knight said to reporters. “There is always a difference between shooting and playing, and I thought we played pretty well.”
Bailey followed up his big game against the Wolverines earlier in the season with a scoreless afternoon in this one.
The loss would be the first of two losses in IU’s final three regular season games as they let the conference crown slip away to the Buckeyes.
Both teams would go on to reach the 1992 Final Four in Minneapolis.
JANUARY 12, 1993: No. 6 INDIANA 76 No. 2 MICHIGAN 75
Alan Henderson came up big late, with the go-ahead basket and then a game saving block on an attempt by Webber in the waning seconds. For the game Henderson had 22 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks as he dealt with Webber and Howard all night on the defensive end.
The Hoosiers held a 37-31 lead at the break and extended that lead to 43-33 before Michigan rallied and created a thrilling back-and-forth affair for most of the second half.
Bailey continued his up and down play in the series, this time dazzling with 10 assists and no turnovers, while Cheaney added 20 points.
Knight was impressed with his team’s resilience to stay in the game after losing the lead.
“Being able to withstand losing that lead and then staying in position where we had a chance to win it at the end was a hell of an improvement for us,” Knight said to reporters after the game.
FEBRUARY 14, 1993: No. 1 INDIANA 93 No. 4 MICHIGAN 92
When the Big Ten’s top two teams met again a month later, Indiana was No. 1 in the country and Assembly Hall was at a fever pitch.
It didn’t look promising for much of the game as Michigan held a double digit first half lead. But Indiana fought back, and a 13-0 run by IU in the game’s final five minutes finally knocked out the Wolverines.
IU had five players in double figures, with Cheaney and Matt Nover leading the way with 20 apiece. Brian Evans had a huge game with three 3-pointers and 17 points.
“It was an excellent win for us,” Knight told reporters, “against a team that could come back and beat us tomorrow, could beat any team tomorrow.”
Indiana won its 11th straight game and moved to 11-0 in conference play as it for all practical intents and purposes locked up the Big Ten title despite the fact that seven league games remained on the schedule.
The only contenders in the conference race were IU and Michigan, and a series sweep gave the Hoosiers the tiebreaker and a nearly insurmountable lead. Michigan finished 15-3 in the league, with only one loss other than its two defeats at the hands of IU.
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