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#TBT: Indiana Hoosiers 2002 Sweet 16 upset over Duke

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Today’s Throwback Thursday moment, takes us back to 2002, and a South Regional Semifinal game played at Rupp Arena in Lexington Kentucky. The home of the Kentucky Wildcats. The Indiana Hoosiers came into the game as the 5th-seeded team in the South Region. It was the first Sweet 16 appearance for the storied program since 1993. For the Hoosiers who had previously won 3 national championships in 11 years (1976, 1981, and 1987) and five (1940, 1953) overall, to go nine years without a Sweet 16 appearance was very uncharacteristic. Their legendary head coach for 29 years (1971-2000) Bobby Knight was then coaching at Texas Tech, and the Hoosiers had turned their program over to longtime assistant Mike Davis. Things weren’t looking up to par in Hoosierland. But, making it this far in the tourney allowed for some optimism to settle in to the program. Only thing was, the team standing in the way of the South Regional Final was none other than the number one-ranked Duke Blue Devils.

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Duke came in with Coach K and their usual Superstar cast of players. The Blue Devils were college hoops version of the New England Patriots. They were led by All-American and National Player of the Year – point guard Jason (Jay)  Williams, power forward Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy Jr. Duke was making an NCAA record 5th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament as number one seed. Few, if any outside of Bloomington Indiana gave the Hoosiers any shot to derail the Blue Devils ride to another national title. The game looked over at the half as Duke raced out to a 42-29 lead. But, the Hoosiers fought back behind the great play of sophomore forward Jared Jeffries (pictured above) and guards AJ Moye and Dane Fife to tie the game at 70 with just over a minute left. Four free throws later, the Hoosiers led 74-70. That is, until Jason Williams sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead to one with just 4 seconds left. Williams, was also fouled on the shot, giving him a chance to tie the game and possibly send it to overtime. The foul sent Mike Davis running back to the Hoosiers bench where, in much despair, he buried his head into his chair.

However, Williams missed the free throw and Indiana’s Jeff Newton secured the rebound and the Hoosiers spot in the Elite 8. Davis’ pain during the free throws turned into jubilation as Hoosier players and fans celebrated one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tourney history.

 

In that Regional Final, Indiana faced the cinderella team of the tournament – The Kent State Golden Flashes, who came in as the 10th seed in the South Region and were led by current San Diego Chargers tight-end Antonio Gates. Indiana took care of business, beating the Golden Flashes and earned a trip to the Final Four. There, the Hoosiers beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the National Semifinal, before losing in the title game to ACC Player of the Year Juan Dixon and the Maryland Terrapins, 64-52.

It was an incredible victory over college basketball’s villain. College basketball’s version of the Yankees. But, now there is an opportunity shock the world again. Up next, in the second game of tomorrow’s East Regional play, the Hoosiers get a shot at another number one seed from the ACC. The North Carolina Tar Heels. Could it be ‘Deja Vu’? Head coach Roy Williams’ bunch isn’t ranked number one in the nation. However, they do have a lot of talent with a guard like Marcus Paige and an athletic presence inside like Brice Johnson, that protects the rim with fervor few have shown. It will be a tough task to say the least for Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell and the rest of his teammates. But, if they need a little encouragement, all they have to do is remember the 2001-2002 set of Hoosiers that set the nation on fire that March night with that incredible win over Duke. Games like these are prime example of why it’s called March Madness…

 

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