There could yet be a team to win three national championships in the 1980s, but it won’t be Indiana.
The Hoosiers ran into Seton Hall Thursday night and walked away with a 78-65 loss--their worst ever in a National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament game.
Seton Hall, a team that finished second in the Big East Conference after being picked seventh, is only one victory away from its first Final Four.
“People don’t understand, for some reason, how good these people are,” Seton Hall Coach P.J. Carlesimo said about his players. “These kids are willing to play defense, willing to rebound the ball, willing to pass the ball.”
The Pirates’ victory, before 16,813 fans in a West Regional semifinal at McNichols Arena, moved them into a game against Nevada Las Vegas Saturday for a trip to Seattle next week.
Indiana’s season, meanwhile, ended at 27-8, and the Hoosiers also lost their chance to add another championship to those they won in 1981 and ’87. Louisville, which plays Illinois tonight, won the NCAA title in 1980 and ’86.
Seton Hall (29-6) won Thursday with strong interior defense, with rebounding and with clutch plays. It also won because Jay Edwards, Indiana’s leading scorer, was on the bench for nearly 15 minutes of the first half.
Edwards left the game after picking up his second foul just 5 minutes 18 seconds into the game. He did not return in the first half, not even after Seton Hall began to build a lead.
“We had a really tough thing with Edwards and two fouls,” Indiana Coach Bobby Knight said. “I had three things I could do: I can leave him in, I can take him out or I can buy time and take him in and out. I thought that in the second half it was going to be too close to start with Edwards with three fouls. I felt if we could stay within five, we would be OK.”
Indiana stayed close even without Edwards for a while. The score was tied, 28-28, with seven minutes left in the first half. But then the Hoosiers went cold. They scored only one more field goal in the half, which ended with Seton Hall ahead, 42-33.
Edwards, who scored only two points in the first half, ended with 18, but it was not enough.
Seton Hall had edged ahead in the first half largely behind the outside shooting of Andrew Gaze, who hit three three-pointers in the first half and finished with 16 points.
John Morton led Seton Hall with 17 points, and Gerald Greene contributed 15.
Gaze got some help from the inside play of Ramon Ramos and Daryll Walker. Ramos hit a turnaround in the lane to give Seton Hall its first four-point lead, and Walker scored on an offensive rebound to make it six.
Indiana missed its final seven shots of the first half.
In the second half, Gaze hit a three-pointer to increase Seton Hall’s lead to 12 points, and Indiana missed 13 of its first 16 shots. In the half, the Hoosiers made only seven field goals in 24 attempts.
Indiana got as close as three points with eight minutes left by scoring five straight points. But Seton Hall kept making the plays and assured itself the victory with less than two minutes left when Gerald Greene broke Indiana’s fullcourt pressure with a baseball pass to Michael Cooper that then went to Walker and over to Gaze for a layup and a 72-63 lead.
It was Seton Hall’s defense--especially from 12 feet in--that particularly impressed Knight.
“I think they played as well defensively against us tonight as perhaps anybody has,” he said.
Knight, a longtime friend of Carlesimo, was gracious in defeat.
“I think they’re a stronger team than we are,” he said. “I told P.J., ‘I think you are a better team, and the way you played tonight you deserved to win.’ ”
Carlesimo, who has called Knight one of the five best coaches in college basketball history--if not the best--appreciated those words.
“Getting a compliment from that like him, that’s special,” he said.