March 28, 1981 — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
There was something very familiar and comfortable about the Spectrum in Philadelphia for Indiana head coach Bob Knight.
After winning the 1976 national title in the building, Knight returned to the same bench, even the same chair, where he sat five years earlier.
After a slow start against Dale Brown’s LSU Tigers at the 1981 national semifinals, Knight’s Hoosiers achieved a familiar result as well.
Neither team shot well in the first half, and IU star point guard Isiah Thomas struggled with foul trouble, picking up a third a few minutes before the break.
LSU led 30-27 going into the locker rooms, and it looked like the Hoosiers had their hands full.
“Let’s just do one thing this half. Let’s play 20 minutes of basketball our way,” Knight said in the huddle before the second half.
Indiana more than had their way.
The Hoosiers scored the first 11 points of the second half, with nine coming from forward Landon Turner. Including the last three minutes of the first half, the Tigers went more than eight minutes without a point as IU clamped down defensively.
But no sooner than things took a promising turn for Indiana, trouble followed as Thomas picked up his fourth foul less than four minutes into the second half.
With Indiana up 36-30, Knight inserted another Thomas into the lineup, and the Hoosiers just kept on rolling.
Jim Thomas would only score two points, but his 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal in just 17 minutes of action would help propel the Hoosiers with their star point guard on the bench.
With Jim Thomas in the game Indiana would go on a 10-2 run to take a 44-34 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining. From there, IU never looked back.
Indiana outscored LSU 40-19 in the second half and went on to win the game going away, 67-49.
LSU shot just 32.2 percent for the game while committing 19 turnovers as IU put together a suffocating defensive effort.
Turner led Indiana with 20 points and he added 8 rebounds. Isiah Thomas had 14 points and 4 assists in 26 minutes.
IU would go on to face North Carolina in the national championship game two days later.
Note: After the game Knight threw an LSU fan in a trash can after the individual yelled obscenities at the coach, who was with his wife in the team’s hotel.
Video Credit – Galen Clavio
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