Five days later the Hoosiers could have lost another one, this time against Michigan in Ann Arbor, where they built a 16-2 lead in the first six minutes but let the home team creep back to within 36-33 by halftime. Indiana ran the lead back up, to 72-60, but found unseemly ways—a three-second violation, a traveling violation, a missed free throw—to cough up the ball in the delay game. The Wolverines closed to 73-68, but Indiana held on for an 80-74 victory, largely due to Benson's 16 of 18 shooting from the floor.
That was only a warmup for the memorable rematch, on Feb. 7 in Bloomington:
?Memorable because Chapter 1 in the Bob-Knight-loses-it-saga was written in this game. With Buckner on the bench for a blow, Wisman threw the ball away twice in a row when Michigan pressed the normally unpressable Hoosiers. After the second turnover, Knight literally pulled Wisman from the game, grabbing his shirt so that it stretched comically. A photo of the scene ran all over the country. "It was perfect," says Wisman, who's an executive with a Chicago ad agency. "It caught Coach Knight in a fit of rage, and I looked like a scared little boy."
?Memorable because Abernethy, Buckner and Wilkerson combined for a horrific 2-of-22 shooting performance and May was only 11 of 30.
?Memorable because Radford was pressed into emergency offensive service. "When Coach Knight told me to go in and start shooting, I almost said, 'Excuse me?' " says Radford, who today works for a Bloomington-based company that produces medical devices. "Nobody except maybe Scott got told to start shooting." But Radford did and finished with 16 points.
?Memorable, above all, because Indiana again needed a Benson buzzer-beater to force the game into overtime. With 33 seconds to go, the Hoosiers trailed 60-56. Assistant coach Bob Donewald remembers thinking, I was sitting here when the streak began, and I'm going to be sitting here when the streak ends. Buckner hit a field goal, his only one of the game, to cut the lead to 60-58, and Indiana fouled usually deadeye Steve Grote, who missed the first of a one-and-one. Knight chose May as the first option to attempt the tying shot—no surprise there—but May was covered, so he passed to Buckner who fired and missed. The rebound caromed to the left where Crews, in the game for the first time, chased it down. Barely looking, he threw the ball back up at the basket to keep it alive, whereupon Benson tipped it up and watched in exultation as the ball went through the hoop.
In overtime a May jumper gave Indiana a 68-67 lead, its first in 43� minutes, which it preserved with stout defense—one blocked shot and one intimidation—by Benson. Final: Indiana 72, Michigan 67.
Indiana's final Big Ten close call came on the road against Purdue on Feb. 16. The Boilermakers rushed to a 27-16 advantage and were ahead 39-35 at halftime. Knight made one of his adjustments, ordering Benson, who had been double-teamed, to act almost entirely as a decoy. Benson took only one shot in the final 20 minutes, while May and Abernethy scored 31 of Indiana's 39 points. Still, with 10 seconds left, Purdue freshman Kyle Macy, who later transferred to Kentucky, hit a miracle jumper from the corner to cut the lead to 72-71 and force May to make a pair of clutch free throws to preserve a 74-71 win.
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
With a 32-team NCAA field, Indiana had to win five games to complete its perfect run. Game 1 was no problem: The Hoosiers rolled over St. John's 90-70. The opponent in Game 2, in the Mideast Regional in Baton Rouge, was Alabama, which, almost to a man, the Hoosiers feel was the best team they played all season. As usual, Indiana got out fast, building a 37-29 half-time lead, but the final 20 minutes—well, almost all of them—belonged to the Crimson Tide. With the Hoosiers nursing a 70-69 lead and 40 seconds to play, Abernethy missed the front end of a one-and-one. "I wanted to crawl into a hole," says Abernethy, "but luckily I got the chance to redeem myself." He was fouled with 14 seconds left and converted both shots. Two more free throws, by Wilkerson, put the final margin at 74-69. "I think of that game and come up with one conclusion," says Buckner. "They should've beat us."