March 27, 1976 — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Indiana opened their legendary 1975-76 season with a convincing win over defending and ten-time national champion UCLA.
If the Hoosiers wanted to reach the national title game later during that same campaign they would have to beat the Bruins again, this time with much more on the line.
But with Indiana focused on a singular goal — winning the national title — it really didn’t matter who stood in their way, or what was on the line. Not even the Goliath that was UCLA, and not even the Final Four.
“We felt that all season long that we were trying to play to potential rather than a particular opponent,” head coach Bob Knight would later say of the rematch.
Indiana’s ability to play to its potential was immediately tested in the national semifinal contest at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
IU All-Big Ten starting center Kent Benson picked up two very early fouls and had to leave the game. Benson had the assignment of stopping 6-foot-11 Bruin All-American Richard Washington, and without him, Knight turned to a senior for the challenging duty.
All 6-foot-8 forward Tom Abernethy did was hold Washington scoreless for 26 minutes while going 7-of-8 from the field himself for 14 points.
After twice overcoming UCLA five point leads, the Hoosiers took a 34-26 edge into halftime.
IU jumped out to a 12 point advantage early in the second half and the Bruins never got closer than six points the rest of the way as the Hoosiers ended the UCLA dynasty, 65-51. After winning 10 titles in 12 years, UCLA would not win it all again until 1995.
Beyond Abernethy, the story of the game might have been Indiana’s defense, which held UCLA to just 34.4 percent from the field.
Benson led IU with 16 points, while Scott May added 14 and Quinn Buckner chipped in 12.
Abernethy was injured in the second half but was able to return for the national title game two days later. Jim Crews filled in for Abernethy down the stretch and was the only player to come off the Indiana bench.
Bobby Wilkerson set a program record for guards with 19 rebounds for the game. He also had 7 assists. Behind Wilkerson’s extraordinary effort on the glass, IU held a 44-34 rebounding margin over UCLA.
For a complete account of the game told by the legendary Bob Hammel, go here.
- March 14: Indiana vs. Auburn (1987)
- March 14: Indiana vs. Maryland (1981)
- March 17: Four memorable games
- March 18: Indiana vs. Kansas (1953)
- March 19: Indiana vs. Kentucky (2016)
- March 20: Indiana vs. Duke (1987)
- March 21: Indiana vs. Duke (2002)
- March 21: Indiana vs. Purdue (1979)
- March 21: Indiana vs. LSU (1992)
- March 22: Indiana vs. North Carolina (1984)
- March 22: Indiana vs. LSU (1987)
- March 23: Indiana vs. Kent State (2002)
- March 24: Indiana vs. Temple (2013)
- March 25: Indiana vs. Louisville (1993)
- March 26: Indiana vs. Florida State (1992)
- March 27: Indiana vs. UCLA (1976)
- March 28: Indiana vs. UNLV (1987)
- March 28: Indiana vs. LSU (1981)
- March 28: Indiana vs. UCLA (1992)
- March 29: Indiana vs. Michigan (1976)
- March 30: Indiana vs. Kansas (1940)
- March 30: Indiana vs. North Carolina (1981)
- March 30: Indiana vs. Syracuse (1987)
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