Bobby Knight brought an Indiana team here for the first time on Jan. 8, 1972. Jim Brewer blocked a shot at the buzzer to give the Gophers a 52-51 victory. Knight thought it was a foul and chased the officials off the elevated court.
From that moment, a visit by Knight and Indiana was a game circled on the schedule by all Williams Arena ticketholders. Knight’s Hoosiers were dominant in the matchup with the Gophers, but there were some grand moments for a maroon sweater crowd:
On Jan. 28, 1990, Clem Haskins’ Gophers lit up Indiana for a 108-89 victory. On Feb. 27, 1994, the Gophers beat Indiana 106-56, as Knight sat passively below the elevated floor and watched his team’s humiliation.
There was also the last ever game in Williams Arena for Knight’s Hoosiers on Feb. 9, 2000. Dan Monson was in his first season as Minnesota’s coach. A month earlier, the Gophers had been at Indiana and lost by 25 points.
This game started in similar fashion. Indiana led 27-14 in the first 10 minutes. J.B. Bickerstaff was fouled hard by Indiana’s A.J. Guyton. Bickerstaff wound up with a broken leg.
And then Minnesota’s center, 7-foot-1 sophomore Joel Przybilla, took over the game. Przybilla would finish with a career-high 33 points and also 14 rebounds.
At game’s end, Kevin Burleson challenged a three-pointer by Guyton, it fell short and the Gophers won 77-75. Knight and the Hoosiers were left hollering for a foul. The Gophers and a crowd of 14,227 were left screaming in joy.
That joy didn’t last long. Monson suspended Przybilla before the next game because Joel had not been attending classes. Przybilla then quit the team, citing a season-long “lack of communication’’ with Monson.
He wound up being taken ninth in the NBA draft by Houston and was promptly traded to Milwaukee. The draft was held in Target Center. The Timberwolves didn’t have a pick, so the fans amused themselves by booing Przybilla, the home-state kid from Monticello.
There really hasn’t been the same level of anticipation surrounding an Indiana visit to the Barn by Indiana since Knight was fired after the 1999-2000 season. Tonight, the Hoosiers come to town rated No. 1 in the country.
They have a coach every bit as fiery as Knight in Tom Crean, yet it’s not the same. I know this because there has been no urge to repeat a column-writing gimmick adopted by me in the early ‘90s.
For a few years there, I would mark the arrival of the Hoosiers with a column citing tradition, talent and pride as the reason for Indiana’s success, while never mentioning the name of the coach.
For instance: There was a quote from Jerry Tarkanian, coach of defending champion and unbeaten UNLV, on Feb. 3, 1991, saying, “If you’re talking about pure talent, Indiana should be a Final Four team.’’
This was followed by the punchline: “With proper coaching, the Hoosiers are a cinch to be there for the finals in Indianapolis.”
I thought it was funny, even if Sid didn’t.