March 28, 1987 — New Orleans, Louisiana
The largest crowd ever for a college basketball game saw a classic. And they also saw something that many did not expect.
While most anticipated a contrast in styles between run-and-gun UNLV and methodical Indiana, the Hoosiers opted to join the Runnin’ Rebels in a track meet.
To the thrill and surprise of the 65,959 fans at the Louisiana Superdome, IU tried to beat No. 1 ranked UNLV in a national semifinal matchup at their own game. According to Indiana head coach Bob Knight, it was the only chance the Hoosiers had against a fast and athletic squad that entered the game 37-1.
“We didn’t think that it would be the kind of game that we could play with all kind of patience and a lot of passing and a lot of dribbling, because we thought that their defensive pressure was too great,” Knight said to reporters after the game.
UNLV All-American Armen Gilliam was among those who were surprised by Indiana’s style of play.
“That might be the most a Bobby Knight team has run since he has been the coach,” Gilliam said after the game.
After IU senior forward Daryl Thomas picked up three early fouls it looked like the Hoosiers might be in trouble. But Steve Eyl filled in masterfully and helped fuel the IU running attack.
Indiana led by as many as 14 in the first half, but the Rebels cut the margin to 53-47 by halftime.
UNLV made a run at Indiana early in the second half, outscoring the Hoosiers 9-2 to take a 56-55 lead. When Gilliam hit a short jumper at the 14:25 mark, the Rebels led 63-61.
But the Hoosiers countered with a spurt of their own, racing to a 73-65 lead. Indiana eventually boosted the margin to 12, when Rick Calloway hit a tough shot to make it 82-70 with 5:35 to play.
UNLV kept attacking offensively until the very end, but Indiana had enough answers to hold on for the 97-93 win.
Knight’s plan worked to perfection as UNLV only forced 14 Indiana turnovers and the Hoosiers shot 62-percent from the floor.
Senior All-American guard Steve Alford led IU with 33 points, while center Dean Garrett had 18 points and a team leading 11 rebounds. Keith Smart and Calloway chipped in with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The Rebels were led by Freddie Banks’ 38 points while Gilliam added 32. Banks made an incredible 10 three-point shots on 19 attempts from behind the arc, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have pulled UNLV to within two with :28 seconds to go.
UNLV’s Mark Wade had 18 assists for the game, but Indiana was able to sag off of him defensively because of his inability to make perimeter shots.
Indiana advanced to the national championship game against Syracuse, who had defeated Rick Pitino’s Providence squad led by Billy Donovan and former Hoosier Delray Brooks in the other national semifinal contest.
Video Credit – Galen Clavio
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