It’s been a busy week. Heard that before?
Tuesday was Kevin Wilson’s weekly press conference. Here’s my story from that for the Post-Tribune.
Wednesday was the first day of the early signing period, and the Hoosiers landed one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. I wrote about it for both the Tribune-Star and the Post-Tribune. I also previewed Thursday’s IU-Sam Houston State game for the Post-Tribune.
And Thursday night, the Hoosiers routed Sam Houston State, 99-45. Here’s what I wrote for the Tribune-Star and the Post-Tribune. I also wrote about the 1953 national championship team; here’s my story for the Tribune-Star (not online, so here you go):
By Andy Proffet
BLOOMINGTON — Bobby “Slick” Leonard was involved in plenty of great games as a player at Indiana and a coach with the Indiana Pacers.
The greatest game his IU team ever played, though, didn’t come in the 1953 NCAA Tournament that ended with the Hoosiers’ second national title.
It was just under three weeks before IU’s 69-68 win over Phog Allen’s Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA title game, when the Hoosiers went to Illinois and won the Big Ten title.
“Illinois had been to the Final Four the year before, and they had horses,” Leonard recalled Thursday night before IU’s game against Sam Houston State. As part of the Progressive Legends Classic, Leonard and some of his teammates from the 1953 title team were honored at halftime and signed autographs before the game.
“They had Johnny Kerr in the middle (and) they had a couple other guys that played in the NBA,” Leonard said of that Illinois team. “And Huff Gym was a tough place to play, because they sat right down on top of you.
“We went in there undefeated (in conference play) and won 91-79. That was a trick in those days, because we went double-overtime with them in Bloomington.”
The conference championship sent the Hoosiers into the 16-team NCAA Tournament. They eked out a win over DePaul, then topped Notre Dame in the regional at Chicago.
That sent the Hoosiers to the Final Four.
“That Final Four may have had four pivot men that they’ve never had since,” Leonard said of the quality of centers among the teams.
“You had Bob Pettit, who’s in the Hall of Fame out of LSU. You had Bob Houbregs from University of Washington who’s in the Hall of Fame. Then you had B.H. Born (from Kansas) who they named most valuable player, and you had Don Schlundt (for the Hoosiers). Those are four good ones.”
Schlundt had 30 points and 10 rebounds against the Jayhawks, and the Hoosiers were the No. 1 team a year later. Leonard is convinced the Hoosiers should have won back-to-back titles, but a controversial finish in a 65-64 loss to Notre Dame in the 1954 NCAA Tournament’s first round prevented the repeat.
“I stole a ball at halfcourt, I went in for a layup, Dick Rosenthal cut clear across the court and put on the flop,” Leonard remembered. “They counted the basket which put us one up and gave him two free throws. He went down and made both of them.”
Even without the consecutive titles, Leonard and his teammates remain popular. A long line of autograph seekers waited patiently for mementos before the Hoosiers faced off against the Bearkats.