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The Greatest Walk-Off Buzzer Beaters in IU Basketball History

The walk-off game winner.

There is truly nothing better in sports.  With Hoosier Nation still feeling the high of Rob Phinisee’s electrifying 30-foot heave to take down Butler, we thought we would supercharge that adrenaline rush with a look back at some of the best buzzer beaters in Hoosier history.

Let’s be clear here.  We are talking about shots that went in as time expired, and all of the court-storming unbridled joy that goes with them.

Sorry Keith Smart, but Syracuse had a final possession in the 1987 title game after your big basket — although not as long as they would have liked because “nobody stopped the clock.”

Sorry Bobby Leonard, but Kansas had a possession after your game winning free throw in the 1953 title game.

Those championship winning moments surely reside on a higher rung in the annals of IU basketball history, but there is just something about seeing a shot go in at the buzzer that is truly unforgettable.  As we saw on Saturday against Butler, the players have a rare moment to erupt in unison with no worries about finishing out the game.

So here we go.  Let’s take a look at the greatest walk-off game winners in IU basketball history.

As always with these kind of endeavors, we surely suffer miserably from recency bias, as great moments from decades past are without a doubt lost here.  Got a favorite one we missed?  Share it in the comments below.

1. Watford For the Win

The moment needs no introduction.  Because of all of the variables at the time, including the resurgence of the program and a home game against not only the No. 1 team in the country, but also arch-rival Kentucky — the Wat Shot has to be the greatest walk-off win in program history.

2. Jay Edwards Doesn’t Blink

This Jay Edwards buzzer beater was surely the most magical of all his 1989 heroics.  But as many know, there is a bigger story here as it relates to the shooting guard from Marion, Indiana.  Just a week earlier Edwards had hit a shot at the horn to take down Purdue 64-62.  And then just two weeks after this Michigan miracle, Edwards hit another shot against Illinois that appeared to be a game-winner.  But this time Edwards made a mistake, leaving a second for Illinois’ Nick Anderson to stun the Hoosiers at the other end.

The Hoosiers ended up winning the Big Ten title outright by one game.

3. Kirk Haston Slays No. 1 Michigan State.

Defending national champion Michigan State had won 23 games in a row.  Indiana, on the other hand, was a program struggling to find its way in the wake of the firing of Bob Knight.  For at least one January afternoon in Bloomington in 2001, Indiana fans could celebrate again as the Hoosiers pulled off a major upset.  With Indiana trailing by two, junior forward Kirk Haston finished it from behind the three point line at the buzzer.

4.  Jimmy Rayl Punctuates His 56-Point Game

1962 wasn’t an especially memorable season for Indiana, but this was a game that has stood the test of time.  Jimmy Rayl set the IU all-time single game scoring record with 56 points in a 105-104 overtime win over Minnesota.  After hitting a shot to force overtime, Rayl capped off the record setting performance in style, with a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Hoosiers the win.

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5. The Phinisee Phinisher

Time will tell where this shot ends up in the lore of IU basketball.  If the Archie Miller era ends in glory, this moment will surely be reflected upon as part of the impetus for getting the program there.

Honorable Mention —

The Buzzer Beater that Wasn’t, Part I.

This one would have been as big as the Wat Shot.  With the Hoosiers trying to find their way under head coach Lou Watson, the 1970-71 edition of IU basketball was finally showing promise with an impressive group of sophomores led by George McGinnis

In the third game of the year, No. 11 Indiana appeared to pull off a stunning upset of No. 3 Kentucky in Bloomington when sophomore forward John Ritter hit an amazing 55-foot shot at the buzzer to give Indiana an apparent 82-80 win.  With cheerleaders on the floor hugging Ritter, the shot was waved off because McGinnis had called timeout. Ritter missed his second chance at a game-winner in regulation, and Kentucky would win the game in overtime 95-93.

The Buzzer Beater that Wasn’t, Part II.

This one had a happier ending for IU, as Steve Alford drained a shot seemingly at the buzzer in 1987 at Michigan.  So convinced was the Indiana team that the game was over, all of the players and coaches ran off the court and into the locker rooms, including a fist pumping Bob Knight.  The officials determined that a second should be added back to the clock and brought IU back to the floor.  Michigan threw the ball out of bounds and Indiana won the game, 85-84.


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