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Top 10 Most Disappointing Losses in Indiana Hoosiers Basketball History

Publish Date: 11/25/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Worst Losses

The Hoosiers have a legendary program, and the memorable wins far outweigh the memorable losses, but today we will look at some moments that still make you wonder, what if?

10) 1983 Sweet Sixteen loss to Kentucky

This one still bothers me because I can’t stand the Kentucky Wildcats.

In 1983 the Hoosiers lost in the Sweet Sixteen as Freshman Kenny Walker came off the bench to make the difference by hitting all six of his shots.

Randy Whittman scored 18 points, and Uwe Blad would add 17 points but those two got very little help from the rest of the team, and the Hoosiers would fall 63-58.

Video: 1983 3 24 KENTUCKY VS INDIANA


9) 1965 Indiana Losses to Michigan in Overtime

Branch McCracken’s 15-2 Hoosiers hosted the No. 1-ranked Michigan Wolverines. Michigan had an unblemished 7-0 conference record. Indiana had to win this game to stay in the conference race and remember in 1965 you had to win the conference to get to the NCAA Tournament.

The Indiana Hoosiers used a late first-half surge and, even with poor shooting (36%), managed to pull ahead at halftime with a 50-44 advantage, thanks mainly to an even split on boards (each team collecting 28).

At the 6:42 mark, Michigan took an unexpected lead by scoring on Jim Myer’s jump shot and going ahead 72-71 with Redenbaugh hitting a jumper, Al Harden converting on free throws, McGlocklin laying one down as well as Tom Van Arsdale making two quick layups, which eventually put Indiana ahead 78-72 with only 2:21 remaining in the game.

Hoosiers appeared well-positioned to win when with under a minute remaining, they increased their lead to 81-74, but Michigan was not considered top in the nation without reason; Michigan went on a 7-0 run at the end of regulation to send this game into overtime.

The overtime period followed suit. Indiana held a four-point advantage with 30 seconds remaining, 92-88, but once again, Michigan responded late by scoring four straight to send this game into double overtime.

Tom Van Arsdale had played exceptionally in both overtime periods. Still, in the second overtime, Tom fouled Cazzie Russell, who hit both free throws for Michigan to give them the edge, ultimately winning by one. Hoosiers played without either Van Arsdale brother as each had fouled out during this final stretch of second overtime play.

Indiana was undone by its poor free throw shooting despite boasting the best rate in school history at 76.8% for the year. Yet in their biggest game of the season, they missed 15 key free throws, making just 21-for-36 free throw attempts overall. Michigan would make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament led by star Cazzie Russell.


8) 1954 Sweet Sixteen Indiana Losses to Notre Dame

After winning its second national title in 1953, Indiana faced tremendous expectations of repeating as champions in 1954. Although challenging, most of its roster – including Bobby Leonard and Don Schlundt – would return, giving IU every opportunity of becoming champion once more.

The Hoosiers didn’t succumb to national fanfare or exposure, instead finishing every week of the regular season ranked top-3 in the AP poll. An All-American season by 6-foot-10 Schlundt (24.3 points per game) helped propel Indiana to a 12-2 conference record and a second-straight Big Ten championship win; plus, they received a first-round bye into NCAA Tournament for another chance at a glorious run.

When they met Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen, Notre Dame and star big man Dick Rosenthal proved otherwise. Don Schlundt’s five-inch height advantage over Rosenthal — Notre Dame’s tallest starter — may have seemed insurmountable for Notre Dame but instead it worked in Rosenthal’s favor.

Schlundt could not generate much in scoring or rebounding during this game, finishing with 10 points and six boards. Rosenthal proved his worth though, scoring 25 points while collecting 15 rebounds as Notre Dame took a 65-64 advantage with just seconds left in play.

Bobby Leonard was called for a charge in the final seconds. Yet, photos and footage indicate it should have been considered an offensive foul on Notre Dame, and Indiana should have had one last opportunity to score. Once again, this is another reason I can’t stand officials!

Video: Indiana Athletics Celebrates the 1953 NCAA Champions

Indiana Athletics Celebrates the 1953 NCAA Champions

7) 1980 Sweet Sixteen loss to Purdue

The 1980 Hoosiers started the season ranked number one, but winning a championship many times is about staying healthy, which would kill this team’s hopes.

Mike Woodson’s back plagued him most of this season. Randy Whittman was injured and gone before conference play would start.

The Hoosiers would mount an epic charge behind Woodson and win the Big Ten Championship, but by tournament time, this team was gassed. Woodson was so amazing during his six-game stretch that he was named Big Ten MVP and only played six conference games!

In the tournament game against Purdue the Hoosiers fell behind early and never could get completely back in the game as they played from behind for most of the game. Purdue would go on to beat the Hoosiers 76-69 and then advance to the Final Four.

6) 1984 Elite Eight Loss to Virginia

This game was so bad because it came right after one of the Hoosiers’ greatest wins over Michael Jordan and North Carolina.

To make matters worse, Ralph Sampson had graduated the year before, and this Virginia team was supposed to lose in the second round against Arkansas. Instead, the Cavaliers went on a run through March, and the Hoosiers were the casualty on this Saturday afternoon.

Kenton Edelin, a 6-8 senior from Virginia, stole the ball from Dan Dakich and drove nearly three-quarters of the court to lay in for a 45-44 lead with 1:27 remaining. From then on, he hit three out of four free throws while Rick Carlisle added two foul shots as Virginia extended its advantage through its last 87 seconds of dominance.

Edelin shared Virginia scoring honors with Jim Miller, a junior forward who amassed 19 points, many via long shots.

One primary hero propelled Indiana’s big win against North Carolina on that Thursday night;  Steve Alford, who scored 27 against North Carolina, only took eight shots and scored six due to Othell Wilson’s stellar defense. In the end, the GOAT of this game was Dan Dakich who allowed Virginia to take the ball away from him.

Video: Virginia vs Indiana NCAA East Regional Final March 24, 1984

Virginia vs Indiana NCAA East Regional Final March 24, 1984

5) Indiana Losses to Maryland in the 2002 National Championship game

Bob Knight’s departure has had far-reaching repercussions for Indiana University basketball and its subsequent struggle to regain national prominence since his departure. Yet, before this forgettable mid-late 2000 period for Indiana basketball, its 2002 Hoosiers tried to disprove any notion of them being has-beens.

Led by Jared Jeffries and supported by AJ Moye and Tom Coverdale, the Indiana Hoosiers finished tied for 1st in the Big Ten before falling to second-round elimination in their conference tournament. Mike Davis, at that time, wasn’t considered a national title contender coach during that season – it didn’t matter.

Indiana navigated their way past an array of teams – such as 1-seeded Duke and 2-seeded Oklahoma – en route to IU’s national championship match against Maryland. A fairytale ending remained possible; all they needed was one more win!

However, their historic run came up short of winning a championship when Maryland easily outwitted Indiana 64-52 and claimed the school’s first National Championship.

Video: 2002 NCAA Men's Basketball Final

2002 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final

4) 1992 Final Four Duke Beats Indiana

Indiana opened up a quick 12-point lead early, but things quickly went south midway through the first half. Duke went on a 31-6 run spanning 12 minutes 38 seconds that turned their double-digit deficit into a 13-point advantage with 10:28 left in the second half – it was the scoring drought that doomed Indiana too deeply. Plus the Officials who were clearly biased in this game.

Indiana did not score for 7 minutes and 31 seconds due to foul trouble that plagued them throughout, with Damon Bailey and Calbert Cheaney picking up their fourth fouls with 18:25 remaining and 14:53 still to go, respectively.

The Hoosiers finally found some footing late in the game and mounted a desperate charge to get back into the game.

In the final minutes of play, Indiana pulled off an astounding comeback effort in just two minutes to reduce Duke’s nine-point advantage to just three with 24 seconds remaining in regulation time. The Hoosiers mounted the comeback without four starters who had all fouled out.

Todd Leary, who averaged just 3.6 points during the season, hit three 3-point shots within 27 seconds in the final minute to pull Indiana within striking distance of tying it. Unfortunately for them, though, Jamal Meeks’ 3-point attempt went wide, sealing the Hoosiers fate.

Video: 1992 Indiana Final Four team discusses their season 25 years later

1992 Indiana Final Four team discusses their season 25 years later

3) 1973 Final Four loss to UCLA

After losing in the opening round of the NIT tournament in 1972, Knight recruited then-freshman Quinn Buckner to team with Steve Green, Steve Downing and John Ritter – an unstoppable scoring trio who led the Hoosiers offense with precision. Knight’s plan seemed more successful than even himself had anticipated!

Hoosiers’ Big Ten title and 19-5 regular season record earned them a sixth-ranked seed in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana advanced past Marquette and Kentucky to reach the Final Four, where they tangled with undefeated UCLA Bruins .

Future NBA Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton made another statement by corralling 17 rebounds, scoring 14 points and coming within one assist of recording a triple-double.

The star of this game wasn’t necessarily one of Indiana’s usual scorers like Green, Downing or Buckner; nor Walton from UCLA; rather it was Tommy Curtis off the bench who put on an amazing display for UCLA — scoring 22 points while shooting 60% from the field! His impressive play proved one thing about UCLA that won out against Indiana on this night: bench depth.

What made this loss even worse was the fact that the Hoosiers Steve Downing outplayed Walton and scored 26 points leading the Hoosiers back from an eighteen-point deficit just when it looked like the Hoosiers were on the cusp of winning a whistle blew that would destroy their hopes and dreams. The call should have been made on Walton, instead, they pointed to Downing, and that was the game. Walton and Downing had four fouls each, and that one call decided that game.

Downing and Ritter provided most of those points (39 of IU’s 59 total).

2) 1993 Indiana Losses to Kansas in the Elite Eight

1993 was supposed to be Indiana University’s year to win its sixth National Championship, led by seniors Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham. Their 1992-93 IU team boasted one of its greatest seasons ever, finishing 17-1 in Big Ten play and earning the No. 1 overall seed for NCAA Tournament competition.

Cheaney and Graham, Damon Bailey, Matt Nover, Alan Henderson and Brian Evans made strides through the regular season, seemingly on track for an extended playoff run come March. Unfortunately for them, though, Kansas Jayhawks had other plans.

After rolling past Wright State, barely getting by Xavier and beating Louisville in consecutive games to advance to the Elite Eight tournament, Indiana eventually ran into its match against head coach Roy Williams and his Jayhawks.

Though Indiana saw excellent performances from Cheaney (22 points, nine rebounds) and Graham (23 points), Kansas’ ball movement and depth proved too much for Indiana to overcome. All five starters scored in double digits for Kansas while shooting 59.5 per cent from the field compared with 13 assists by Indiana. Kansas proved superior simply due to being more consistent overall.

Video: 03/27/1993 NCAA Midwest Regional Final: #2 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #1 Indiana Hoosiers

03/27/1993 NCAA Midwest Regional Final: #2 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #1 Indiana Hoosiers

1) 1975 Regional Final UK Beats IU

Bob Knight called Bob Knight’s 1974-75 Hoosiers the most outstanding team ever under his guidance; these Hoosiers were more dominant than the undefeated 1976 team. Though neither Knight nor his players realized it at the time, had 1975 ended with them winning another undefeated national title and going undefeated too, it would have made it the most incredible two-year stretch in college basketball history.

Kentucky didn’t let fate play its hand in the Elite Eight. Instead, Kentucky narrowly defeated Indiana, who had gone undefeated at 31-0 and sent Hoosiers home depressingly.

Kentucky held onto its narrow lead of 92-90 when Kentucky’s Jimmy Dan Conner took an inbounds pass but, instead of waiting to be fouled, decided to drive toward the basket before Indiana freshman Wayne Radford pulled him down from behind by pulling on his arm from behind and knocking him to the floor from behind. Chaos ensued as an Indiana cheerleader attempted to kick Connor. Remaining calm throughout, Conner avoided technical foul charges that would’ve sent Hoosiers straight to free throw line.

No matter their final outcome, Indiana University’s 1975 and 1976 teams will forever remain part of IU lore as the greatest back-to-back seasons ever seen in Hoosier history.

Video: Indiana vs Illinois - 1/27/1975 Men's Basketball

Indiana vs Illinois – 1/27/1975 Men’s Basketball

Honorable Mentions

1986 Loss to Cleveland State in the first round

1988 Loss to Richmond in the first round

2016 loss to UNC in the Sweet 16

1960 IU loss to Ohio State Regular Season

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