Men's Basketball

Time Machine: Keith Smart’s shot with four seconds left sinks Syracuse, 74-73, in national championship

Daily Orange File Photo

Syracuse had the chance to win its first national championship in 1987 but lost to Indiana.

Editor’s note: The article below is a republished story from The Daily Orange’s coverage of the Syracuse and Indiana NCAA Tournament matchup in men’s basketball on March 30, 1987.

NEW ORLEANS — He had spent the last five minutes of the game building up to this one final moment, and with his Indiana University team trailing 73-72 with four seconds remaining, Hoosier guard Keith Smart had the shot he wanted.

It was a 16-foot jumper on the left side of the basket and if he missed the shot Syracuse University would go home with a 72-73 win and its first NCAA basketball championship. If he made it, the Hossier’s would take home their third title under coach Bob Knight.

“We worked it around for about 10 seconds,” Smart said. “And I knew time was running out, so I just took it.”

What the 6-foot-1-inch junior took was an off-balance jumper that went through the net and gave Indiana a 74-73 win over SU Monday before 69,959 fans at the Louisiana Superdome and a nation-wide television audience.

“Smart made a great play,” SU coach Jim Boeheim said. “Somebody had to make a play at the end and Indiana made a great play — that’s why they won the game.”

That the Hoosiers, who end the year with a 30-4 record, had a chance to win, was attributed to Smart’s play in the last five minutes and free-throw shooting problems by the Orange.

Smart scored 10 of Indiana’s last 13 points in the game and tied the at 63, 68 and 70 each time it looked like SU might pull away.

And with SU winning 73-70 with 38 seconds left, Smart rebounded a missed Howard Triche free throw and sank an 8-foot jump shot on the other end to make the score 73-72.

Triche had made the first end of the one-and-one, but his miss on the second shot, followed by Derrick Coleman’s miss on a one-and-one, ended SU’s chances of winning the game.

Sophomore point guard Sherman Douglas led Syracuse with 20 points and seven assists and wasn’t holding his head down after the loss. “I think we should be proud of the season we had,” Douglas said. “We weren’t expected to go as far as we did. This team is really proud of itself.”

Junior center Rony Seikaly, who averaged 24 points in 5 prior tournament games, chipped in 18 points and 10 rebounds.

“We are all disappointed, but I’m sure when we think about it later, there’s no question this was a great season.”

Coleman’s 19 rebounds was the second highest total ever in a NCAA championship game. The record of 21 was set by Ed Spivy of Kentucky in the 1951 championship game, when Kentucky defeated Kansas State for the title.

“I came out trying to be aggressive on the board,” Coleman said. “I just wasn’t quite aggressive enough for us to win.”

Boeheim, though visibly disappointed, said he took solace that his team took part in what he considers a great basketball game.

“I’ve been involved in a lot (basketball games) of them,” Boeheim said. “You could certainly put this one there and say it’s one of the great ones. One great shot made the difference.”

And the difference was a national championship trophy, which will head to Bloomington, Ind. For a third time instead of spending the next year in Syracuse.


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