FORT WAYNE – The basket has been shown hundreds of times on television.
And that’s a conservative estimate.
Christian Watford’s game-winning three-pointer against Kentucky is one of the signature moments of the college basketball season.
So much so, ESPN features the shot and the fan reaction in a commercial.
It goes in every time. Every time, Indiana coach Tom Crean said Saturday. The value that brings our university, brings our fan base to have that out there, it’s fantastic.
Indiana (27-8) and Kentucky (34-2) play again in the Sweet 16 on Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Kentucky’s emotions looking back to the first meeting are a little different from IU’s.
That was a rough day for us. We hate to lose any game. But the way we lost, that just made it that much worse, Kentucky freshman guard Marquis Teague said Saturday. Like we said, we’ve had to move on past that day.
That day was Dec. 10. The buzz had been building in Bloomington leading up to the game. Students lined up days in advance for the best seats. Dick Vitale was in Assembly Hall as part of the announcing crew for ESPN.
The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 and undefeated. The Hoosiers were also unbeaten, having won their first eight games.
And the game exceeded the hype.
Spurred on by the frantic crowd, Indiana built an early lead. The Wildcats had to battle the Hoosiers, the crowd and foul trouble as shot-blocking star Anthony Davis went to the bench with two fouls with 8:03 left in the first half.
IU led by 10 with nine minutes remaining. Kentucky rallied, and Doron Lamb made 1 of 2 free throws with 5.6 seconds left to give the Wildcats a two-point lead.
Watford inbounded the ball to Verdell Jones III, who later said the plan was to get a basket and send the game to overtime. Kentucky had fouls to give, and attempted to foul, but was unsuccessful. Jones pushed ahead, turned and passed it to Watford, who drilled the shot from the left wing at the buzzer.
Final: Indiana 73, Kentucky 72.
You can’t really tell whether it’s going in, Watford, who scored 20 against Kentucky, said after the game. But the ball came off good and I got the ball in the air, and I knew I had enough rotation on it. It just happened to go in.
Fans flooded the court in celebration. Players partied on the scorer’s table and with family members in the stands.
The game marked IU’s return to the national stage. Kentucky has only lost one other game this season, against Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament title game.
It goes in every time, Crean said. And there’s still a hand up in front of him. There’s still a great pass from Verdell, there’s still a great screen from Cody Zeller. Every time it goes in.