First win over Kentucky propelled Hoosiers to Sweet 16 rematch
Christian Watford's buzzer-beater three-pointer to beat Kentucky on December 10th in Bloomington is probably thee shot of the college basketball season. The play is shown over and over again in sports highlights shows and promotional spots.
"I see it a lot," said Watford Thursday in Atlanta. "At some point, you just get used to it."
Top-ranked Kentucky (33-2) is reminded of its only regular season loss almost every time the Wildcats turn on the TV.
"We see it a lot on ESPN commercials, phone commercials a lot of things," said Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague on Thursday. "So we see it a lot."
One win that meant much more to the Hoosiers, signaling a return to prominence for Indiana University basketball.
"It was huge," said Indiana senior guard Verdell Jones III, who got the assist on Watford's game-winner. "It definitely meant we were over the hump now and starting to go back to IU's dominant days."
"It was kind of the turning point for this program," said Indiana junior forward Derek Elston. "We never really could get over the hump last year. Beating the number one team gave us momentum. Once we got that win it gave everybody an uplift in spirit. Once we got that confidence back and started rolling, it was hard to stop us."
"It put us more on the map," said Indiana senior forward Tom Pritchard. "A lot of people started recognizing Indiana basketball was coming back. We started to recognize that as well. It was a big confidence booster. It helped us to win a lot more games after that."
The Hoosiers (27-8) have won 18 games since. The 16 win improvement over last season is the best in the country and matches the best turnaround of any team in Big Ten history.
"There's no question that that win gave them a special dose of confidence," says Indiana coach Tom Crean, who is 3-3 vs. Kentucky. "But if they didn't believe they could win the game going into the game, we would never have had a chance."
Kentucky was ranked number one in the country then, and is now. The rematch will be played on an even bigger stage, the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament South Region at the Georgia Dome, in front of 26,000 fans. Indiana meets Kentucky for the fourth time in the NCAA Tourney. The Wildcats hold a 2-1 edge. But the schools have not played in the tourney since 1983.