The decade that ends next week (yes, I know it really doesn't end until next year, but like everyone else I'm counting 2000-2009) won't be mistaken for one of IU's greatest. IU failed to win an NCAA title, the Bob Knight era came to an ugly end, and the NCAA found IU guilty of major violations for the first time in the history of the basketball program. Still, IU won a share of a Big Ten title, advanced to the NCAA championship game, and registered two wins against #1-ranked teams. Based on little consideration and my opinions only, here are the top ten basketball games of the decade for the Indiana Hoosiers
10. February 26, 2000: Indiana 81, #5 Michigan State 79 (regular season, Bloomington)
: The Spartans were on their way to the 2000 NCAA title, but the Hoosiers tripped them up and handed the Spartans their final loss of the 2000 calendar year (for discussion of MSU's next loss, keep reading). AJ Guyton scored a career-high 34 points, but it was an uncharacteristic Guyton airball, put back for a basket by Lynn Washington with less than a second remaining, that gave IU a win over one of the best Big Ten teams of all time.
Matteen Cleaves weeping tears of joy in Indianapolis a few weeks after Sparty's loss to IU (via 2.bp.blogspot.com)
9. January 31, 2007: Indiana 71, #2 Wisconsin 66 (regular season, Bloomington)
: The Badgers were enjoying their best season in decades, but suffered a key blow in their effort to keep pace with Ohio State when they lost to IU in Bloomington, a game that resulted in a rare court-rush by the students. While his career ended with a whimper, AJ Ratliff enjoyed his finest moment as a Hoosier, scoring 18 second half points and hitting a three pointer with 4:32 remaining that put the Hoosiers ahead for good.
8. February 19, 2008: Indiana 77, #14 Purdue 68 (regular season, Bloomington)
: I hesitate to put this one on the list, because this win didn't come at a happy time for the IU program. The NCAA had issued its devastating report, and IU's for-cause process that would lead to Sampson's involuntary resignation was underway, and everyone knew it likely would be Kelvin Sampson's last game as IU's coach. Still, for all of that, a win over Purdue always beats the alternative, and IU's hasn't had a win of this quality since. DJ White scored 19 points and had 15 rebounds, Eric Gordon
had 22 points, and Armon Bassett added 16. IU turned the ball over 23 times but the Boilers' abysmal shooting prevented them from taking advantage.
DJ White played tremendously in what turned out to be the Hoosiers' last hurrah to date. (via grfx.cstv.com)
7. December 10, 2005: Indiana 79, #15 Kentucky 53 (regular season, Indianapolis
): Mike Davis played basketball at Alabama and never defeated Kentucky, and many of Davis's lowest moments as IU's head coach came against the Wildcats: his pronouncement in 2000 that he wasn't up to the job, a blowout loss in 2001, the infamous head-slapping tantrum in 2002, the 39 point loss in 2003, and so on. In his last season, Davis finally got his long-desired win over the Wildcats, and it wasn't a suspenseful affair. Even those of us who thought Davis should have been fired a year or two earlier couldn't help but be happy for the guy. Another aggrieved SEC alum, Auburn transfer Marco Killingsworth, led IU with 23 points.
6. February 29, 2000: Indiana 79, #20 Purdue 65 (regular season, Bloomington)
: No one knew it at the time, but this game was Bob Knight's game at Assembly Hall. While Purdue did not win at Assembly Hall during the Aughts, before this game, the Boilers had won on three of their last four trips to Bloomington. In his final game in Bloomington, AJ Guyton scored 17 points and IU knocked Purdue out of the Big Ten title hunt.
Shown in an earlier game, AJ Guyton played well in his final home game and final Purdue game. (via 2.bp.blogspot.com)
5. March 10, 2001: Indiana 58, #4 Illinois 56 (Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Chicago)
: While it might have happened anyway, this game almost certainly assured that interim coach Mike Davis would be given a long-term contract. It's a great memory anyway. In the 4th Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers advanced to the weekend for the first time ever and upset the Elite Eight-bound Illini in Chicago. The Hoosiers lost the title game to Iowa, and this game remains one of IU's few outstanding Big Ten Tournament moments.
4. January 7, 2001: Indiana 59, #1 Michigan State 58 (regular season, Bloomington)
: The Hoosiers were struggling with a 9-6 record (back when a 9-6 record was struggling) and hosted the Spartans, who were undefeated, top ranked, defending NCAA champions, and hadn't lost a game in nearly a year (see #10, above). The team and the fans still were reeling from the September 2000 firing of Bob Knight. IU trailed 58-56, but Kirk Haston's three pointer at the buzzer allowed IU fans to believe that there would be life after Knight for Indiana basketball.
3. March 23, 2002: Indiana 81, Kent State 69 (NCAA regional final, Lexington, Ky.):
After the win over top-ranked Duke (to be discussed below, no surprise), the Hoosiers faced a Cinderella opponent in the regional final. Kent State had upset #2 seed Alabama and #3 seed Pitt, and had upset the #4 seed Hoosiers in the 2001 Tournament. IU shot an amazing 15-19 from three point range, including 5-6 by Dane Fife, and advanced to the Final Four for the first time in ten years.
AJ Moye celebrates IU's three-point barrage. Stan Heath doesn't share the joy. (via images.usatoday.com)
2. March 30, 2002: Indiana 73, #3 Oklahoma 64 (NCAA Final Four semifinal, Atlanta)
: The Hoosiers, as a 5 seed, crashed a loaded Final Four that included #1 seeds Maryland and Kansas and #2 seed Oklahoma, ranked #3 in the final regular season AP poll. Facing future IU coach Kelvin Sampson, the Hoosiers fouled out OU's best big men and, again, made a bunch of three pointers, but Atlanta native Jeff Newton stole the show in his hometown. Newton averaged only 8.1 points per game in 2002, but scored 19 on 7-10 shooting and led the Hoosiers to their first title game appearance since 1987.
1. March 21, 2002: Indiana 74, #1 Duke 73 (NCAA regional semifinal, Lexington, Ky.)
: You knew it was coming. In front of a friendly crowd at Rupp Arena in Lexington (lots of IU fans combined with Kentucky fans who hate Duke more than they hate IU), IU struggled in the early going but overcame a 17 point deficit to take the lead with under a minute remaining. Few IU games have involved more of an emotional roller coaster than the final 11.1 seconds of this game provided. AJ Moye hit two free throws to give IU a four point lead, but Dane Fife fouled Jason Williams
on a made three pointer. Williams missed the potential tying shot, Carlos Boozer missed a putback on the rebound, and Jeff Newton wrapped up the ball and sealed IU's signature win of the decade.
Honorable mention, in no particular order: December 5, 2000: IU 86, #10 Notre Dame 78 (a reeling Hoosier squad righted the ship in South Bend with an upset over ND thanks to 30 points from Tom Coverdale); January 26, 2002: Indiana 88, #9 Illinois 57 (a three point barrage results in one of the more enjoyable beatdowns in IU history); December 3, 2002: Indiana 80, #9 Maryland 74 (IU gained a small measure of revenge with an OT win at Conseco); January 27, 2004: IU 63, #21 Purdue 58 (IU improved to 5-1 in the Big Ten, but went 3-9 the rest of the way); February 27, 2005: Indiana 78, #10 Michigan State 74 (the Hoosiers saved their NCAA hopes for a day with an upset of the Final Four-bound Spartans); December 8, 2007: Indiana 70, Kentucky 51 (Eric Gordon was injured, but the Hoosiers rolled anyway); February 7, 2008: Indiana 83, Illinois 79 (Eric Gordon and Hoosiers overcome toxic atmosphere in Champaign).
Well, there it is. A similar review of the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s would have yielded more accomplishments, but the Aughts were a respectable decade, despite the rough finish, and give hope that in 10 years, IU will be reflected on yet another list of excellent accomplishments. Disagree with any of my rankings? Care to make an argument for any games I left off the list? Let me know in the comments.