March 30, 1987 — New Orleans, Louisiana
The 1986-87 Indiana Hoosiers were probably the program’s least talented national championship team, but led by unrelenting senior Steve Alford and a strong supporting cast, the Hoosiers found a way to earn the school’s fifth title.
But the outcome would have almost certainly been different if IU head coach Bob Knight had continued his stance against recruiting junior college players.
While Alford was the clear leader of the team, it would be one of the first transfers ever in Knight’s program that changed the course of history on this night.
The Hoosiers trailed, 29-24, with four minutes left in the half but finished with a 10-4 run, capped by two three-pointers by Alford, the second with three seconds to go. That gave Indiana a 34-33 lead in front of 56,707 at the Superdome.
Syracuse led by as much 52-44 in the second half, but Indiana answered that with a 10-0 spree.
With Syracuse leading 73-72 with 28 seconds left, 6-foot-8 freshman Derrick Coleman missed the front end of a one-and-one, allowing Indiana to set up for the last shot.
Junior guard Keith Smart, who along with center Dean Garrett, were the first transfers to enroll at Indiana under Knight, dribbled to the left baseline and took an 18-footer with four seconds to go.
“When it got to 10 seconds and Steve was covered, I had to penetrate and try to get the ball to Daryl (Thomas),” Smart said. “When he was covered he kicked it back to me. I never looked at the clock. I just shot.”
It was all net, and Syracuse failed to call a timeout until only one second remained on the clock.
The game ended with Coleman inbounding long and Smart intercepting at the top of the key, clinching Knight’s third NCAA title in 12 years.
“This was a team that three seasons ago could not hold a lead and was always vulnerable,” Knight said after the game. “These kids have come a long way to get here. I’m really not sure yet if we’re that good a team. But I could not be happier for them.”
Alford led Indiana (30-4) with 23 points, including seven three-pointers. Smart had 21 including 17 in the second half.
The late Daryl Thomas, who passed in March of 2018, had 20 points, 7 rebounds and the game winning assist.
Garrett had a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Only Alford, Smart, Thomas and Garrett scored for Indiana in the game.
Sherman Douglas led the Orange with 20 points and 7 assists. Rony Seikaly had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Coleman had a game high 19 rebounds.
Video credit – NCAA
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