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The players were silent.
"All right." said Knight, "you tell me a team that combines that much talent with the right attitude."
"I agree," said Knight. "Those UAB kids will have my undying respect for how hard they played the game. And we're facing the same thing in St. Joseph's. They want a piece of us. They're going to come out playing Indiana and all that Indiana entails."
After its shocking upset of DePaul at Dayton, St. Joseph's had come to Bloomington and outlasted Boston College 42-41 in one of the most boring games in NCAA history. Once BC threw 44 bounce passes in the same possession. "I'd like to see the stats on time of possession." said St. Joe's Coach Jim Lynam. "We had the ball like nine minutes of the game." But, at the end, the little school from Philly had it when it counted. Trailing by four with less than five minutes to go, and by 41-40 with 46 seconds left, St. Joe's got the game-winning points on two free throws by Bryan Warrick at 0:21 and then survived a couple of BC misses to earn the right to play IU for the trip to Philadelphia.
"We're going, for sure," said the St. Joseph's coach. "I don't know about them."
Knight and Lynam have been friends since 1961, when they played against each other in the final four—Knight for Ohio State. Lynam for St. Joe's. Knight recalled Lynam as "the little SOB who was too quick for me to catch." Lynam recalled Knight as "the slow SOB who couldn't catch me." Ohio State won, 95-69.
Sunday's big confrontation between Knight and Lynam for the regional title was just as one-sided, even though Knight got a scare Saturday evening when Isiah twisted an ankle in a half-speed workout. "We didn't know until today if he would be able to play," said Knight. Not only did he play, but he also did his customary superb job of running the show on the floor. In the first half IU capitalized on almost every possession by shooting 66.7% against the St. Joe zone, and took a 32-16 lead. That forced St. Joe's to go man-to-man—to no effect; Indiana outscored St. Joe's 8-1 to open the second period. At the end Knight took pity on Lynam, ordering his team to shoot only layups. Had he been playing an opponent he didn't like, Purdue, say, Knight could have won by 50 instead of 32 (78-46), which was convincing enough. So the Hoosiers going to Philadelphia are a red-hot team playing at top form. Whether that's good enough to beat LSU remains to be seen. Asked what he liked most about his team. Knight said, "What I like is that they're going to Philadelphia to play, not to watch." In '76, he said, it was different because IU was expected to win. "There was a feeling of 'Let's get it over with,' a feeling of relief when we won. This is like a bonus."
He was on the hot seat then. This time his chair will be more comfortable.