Indiana didn’t have an answer for Kent State guard Trevor Huffman as he led the Golden Flashes with 24 points in a 2001 NCAA Tournament first round upset over the Hoosiers.
When Huffman hit a three-pointer to open the game for Kent State in the 2002 rematch, it looked like the Michigan native might just torture IU once again.
But it would be the last lead of the day for Kent State.
At a sold out Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., senior guard Dane Fife made sure the Hoosiers had a response with the Final Four on the line.
And for Fife, it was personal.
Also a Michigan native, Fife made two quick three-pointers to commence the scoring for Indiana, and teammates Kyle Hornsby and Jarrad Odle followed him as IU opened up a 12-3 lead just minutes into the game and forced a Kent State timeout.
The 4-for-4 start from behind the arc was only the beginning for Indiana. The Hoosiers went on to knock down an incredible 15-of-19 from long range. Their 15 three-point field goals shattered the previous IU school tournament record of 10.
It was a complete reversal of strategy from Indiana’s win two days earlier when the Hoosiers pounded the ball in the paint to rally for a stunning comeback victory over No. 1 Duke.
On this Saturday regional final, IU’s perimeter assassins Fife, Hornsby and Tom Coverdale led the Hoosiers with 17, 16 and 14 points respectively, combining to go 12-of-15 from distance. Fife, Hornsby and Coverdale hit five, four and three 3-pointers, respectively.
Hornsby and Coverdale each had 7 assists to lead IU, while Jared Jeffries had 10 points and a team leading 7 rebounds.
While Indiana stretched their lead to 20 points on multiple occasions, Kent State kept fighting.
Coverdale was lost for the rest of the game with an ankle injury, and when the Hoosiers went scoreless for more than four minutes in the second half, Kent State got as close as 59-52.
But then Fife answered with, what else but a three-pointer, to push the cushion back into double figures. Kent State never seriously threatened again.
The celebration was on in Bloomington as Indiana returned to its first Final Four in ten years.
Indiana’s 82-69 win sent the Hoosiers to the 2002 Final Four in Atlanta where they would take on future Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson and the Oklahoma Sooners. Coincidentally, their path in 2023 involves Kent State and Sampson once again.
The 2002 win over Kent State sent IU to its eighth and most recent Final Four. It was an improbable stage for the Hoosiers in a season that started with a 7-5 record for head coach Mike Davis.
Davis, who was under fire during that slow start, was gracious in victory.
“God has truly blessed me to put this team in the Final Four,” Davis said to reporters after the game. “I was so nervous today, my stomach was in knots. This is a big, big day for Indiana basketball.”
Huffman only managed 8 points in this contest as Fife was able to hold the Golden Flash guard in check. It was sweet redemption for Fife, after Huffman had referenced the Indiana guard’s family after the 2001 Kent State win regarding a matter that dated back to the players’ Michigan high school days.
“One of the things that sticks with me about Kent State is, my dad got ripped by one of their players in Sports Illustrated,” Fife said of Huffman before the rematch. “I think that’s a good motivational tool for me.”
The motivation helped. Fife finished with 17 points, and the Hoosiers cut down the nets in Lexington.
The Golden Flashes were led by future NFL tight end Antonio Gates’ 22 points.
Note: The late IU alum Dick Enberg did the play-by-play for CBS.
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