LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Indiana fans saw their team reach the Final Four in a different fashion that its storied predecessors.
The fifth-seeded Hoosiers nailed 15 3-pointers and built a huge lead before holding on for an 81-69 victory over stubborn Kent State in the South Region final.
Indiana (24-11) will meet West Region champion Oklahoma next weekend in Atlanta. The Hoosiers are in the Final Four for the first time since 1992, when Bob Knight roamed the sidelines.
It is the school's eighth Final Four appearance.
"I'm just happy for the kids, for the whole program," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "I appreciate the opportunity the administration has given me." While Knight's teams relied on a motion offense and high-percentage shots, Mike Davis's squad came out firing and made its first five shots, all from beyond the arc, for a 15-4 lead just 4:15 into the contest. Kyle Hornsby's 3-pointer capped the early burst.
A.J. Moye nailed the Hoosiers' eighth 3-pointer without a miss for a 34-14 cushion with just over eight minutes left in the first half. Indiana was 9-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half and took a 40-28 lead into intermission.
"It was very frustrating at times," Golden Flashes guard Andrew Mitchell said. "I don't think if we had 10 people out there we could have stopped their shooting." Dane Fife's 3-pointer extended the advantage to 59-39 with 10:33 left, but point guard Tom Coverdale went down with a left ankle injury shortly thereafter. The Golden Flashes (30-6) employed full-court pressure and ran off 13 straight points to pull within 59-52 on a free throw by Antonio Gates with 6:38 to go.
"We went to pressing, we went to playing an open style offensively," Kent State coach Stan Heath said.
Predictably, it was a 3-pointer -- this time by Fife -- that restored order for Indiana and a 10-point cushion. Jared Jeffries threw down a dunk for a 64-52 lead with 5:20 remaining.
"They just swung it to me," Fife said. "Being a senior and shooting as well as I was tonight, I shot it and it went in. That swung the game back my way." "Give Dane Fife a lot of credit," Heath said. "That may have been the key play of the game." Fife scored 17 points and the unheralded Hornsby added 16 as Indiana exacted revenge after losing to Kent State in the first round of last year's tournament. That loss nearly put Davis' job in jeopardy.
"To do it against Kent State, which caused a lot of problems at the end of last year, it did make it a bit sweeter," Hornsby admitted.
Fife drained 5-of-6 attempts and Hornsby was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers' 79 percent 3-point shooting (15-of-19) was the fourth-best mark in an NCAA Tournament game. Indiana fell two 3-pointers shy of the school record, set in a victory over Illinois on January 26.
"That's why I run the offense that I run," Davis said. "We knew they would try to take away Jeffries (inside). I told our guards that the opportunity would be there, so be aggressive." "I haven't seen a shooting display like that in my 13 years of coaching," Heath said. "They saved their best for a money game." The win also gave Indiana president Myles Brand a measure of vindication. Brand was hung in effigy on campus after firing Knight two years ago but shared a special moment with the team after the game.
The loss ended a school-record 21-game winning streak for the 10th-seeded Golden Flashes. Gates had a terrific game with 22 points and helped keep Kent State close by making 10-of-18 shots. Mitchell netted 19.
While Indiana rarely missed from the perimeter, Kent State was just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc. Star guard Trevor Huffman had just eight points.
Coverdale scored 14 points and Jeffries finished with 10 and seven rebounds. The Hoosiers shot 72 percent (13-of-18) in the second half.
"Coach Davis has created something new," Jeffries said. "It's a tradition to build on." .