This Date in Hoosier History: Indiana Tops Kentucky to Advance to the Sweet 16

March 19, 2016 — Des Moines, Iowa

One of the great series in college basketball has gone dormant, but the Hoosiers can claim the last victory.

Early in the 2015-16 season, even making the NCAA Tournament at all seemed like a stretch for Indiana.  The Hoosiers got off to a 5-3 start that included a poor showing at the Maui Invitational and a blowout loss at Duke.

But by the time March rolled around, Indiana had won the Big Ten outright led by senior point guard Yogi Ferrell.  The sluggish start to the season contributed to the Hoosiers only receiving a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the selection committee saw a good opportunity when they slotted Kentucky in as a No. 4 seed in the East Regional.

The second round matchup in Des Moines against No. 10 Kentucky in many ways mirrored IU’s season.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-2 lead, and then later in the first half held a 20-13 margin with 9:34 remaining as the Hoosiers struggled with turnovers and poor shot selection early.

IU also struggled with injuries, as guard Robert Johnson left with a sprained ankle, forward Juwan Morgan left with a separated shoulder, and later forward OG Anunoby appeared to injure his ankle as well.

Somehow the Hoosiers persevered, and a five minute Kentucky scoring drought helped Indiana edge out to a 33-32 halftime lead.

Anunoby was the only of the three injured Hoosiers to stay in the game, and his 3 blocks and 2 steals performance served as a national coming out party for the freshman’s defensive prowess.

With Anunoby leading the way, Kentucky would shoot just 42.1 percent for the game while committing 16 turnovers.

Meanwhile, fellow freshman forward Thomas Bryant provided the spark on the offensive end.  Bryant scored 15 of his 19 points in the final eight minutes of the game as the Hoosiers started to pull away late.

“The point of emphasis I had was staying on the attack,” Bryant said after the game.  “Coach told me that he wanted me to attack more, you know, get a quick whip or get a quick bucket down there on the block when I can. He believes in me, and I just went with the coach’s plan, you know.”

Indiana took control of the game with a 17-4 run to go up by 10 with four minutes left.  Kentucky was able to pull back to within 69-67, but Bryant hit two from the line with 10 seconds to go to push IU into the Sweet Sixteen.

“Mostly going through my mind was staying calm, you know, calming down, breathing, and then not letting my adrenaline pump so much to where it was too much for me, just calm down,” Bryant said of his decisive free throws.  “My teammates were there talking to me. We go through this in practice all the time, so I was just lucky to make ’em.”

Ferrell had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists for IU while committing just 1 turnover in a steady senior performance.

“I didn’t try and force anything,” Ferrell said of his performance.  “I basically stuck to my strengths, found my shooters, found guys like Thomas cutting to the rim when I drive when they’re trying to come block my shot.”

Troy Williams added 13 points including several circus shots, and he also had 4 turnovers on the night.  But Williams ran the point guard during a critical stretch with Ferrell on the bench where IU went on a 9-2 second half run.

Williams found Anunoby for a three-pointer to give IU a 56-50 lead with 7:01 left.  That was the biggest margin of the game for IU to that point, and the Hoosiers controlled things the rest of the way.

“Troy settled in and that’s what we needed him to do,” head coach Tom Crean said.  “Troy responded in the sense that they were playing him for the drive and score rather than the drive and pass and Troy is always better when he understands that the head has to be up, especially outside of the elbows.”

Tyler Ulis led Kentucky with 27 points.


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