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March 8, 2013

U-M vs. IU: history repeats itself

Longtime Michigan basketball fans may get a twang of deja vu when thinking about the Wolverines' upcoming final-day-of-the-regular-season showdown with Indiana with a Big Title hanging in the balance.

Michigan finally ended its championship slump last year, laying claim to a share of the Big Ten title, but before that, the program's last conference banner came from the 1985-86 season.

And Saturday, March 8, 1986, Indiana came to Crisler Arena with a lot on the line.

That day, Michigan and Indiana boasted identical 13-4 records - one would leave with an outright Big Ten title, the other licking its wounds to get ready for the NCAA Tournament.

The Wolverines pounced early, beginning the game on a 30-14 run on their way to a resounding 80-52 victory.

The 28-point win marks the largest margin of victory against Indiana in program history.

"We read a lot of things (Indiana coach Bobby Knight) said about the best team they played being Iowa and the most talented being Illinois," Michigan forward Richard Rellford said after the game. "That gave us such incentive. I can't believe he said it."

Michigan outpaced the Hoosiers 44-25 in the opening half and never led by fewer than 19 points in the second.

Roy Tarpley led the way for the Wolverines, scoring a game-high 21 points.

"The thing got away from us right away," Knight said after the game. "If Michigan plays like that all the time, they've got an opportunity to be an outstanding basketball team."

It was a history-making victory. The Wolverines, who had captured the 1985 title as well, had claimed consecutive Big Ten titles for the first time since the Cazzie Russell years.

"Four years ago, when these guys were freshmen, Knight beat us up," Michigan coach Bill Frieder said. "They beat us something like 81-51, and it could have been 110-30. He talked to our kids after the game and told them they were an excellent basketball team. He told them they were young, but it they stayed together, they were going t o be a fine team one day."

And - just in case the final score wasn't enough of an indication - the Wolverines completely decimated those Hoosiers in 1986 to steal the conference title.

"It was as though the Wolverine team, before and after this game correctly assessed by Knight as not always having been at full intensity, rode the noise meter in the arena to an unprecedented high," Toledo Blade columnist Tom Loomis wrote after the game. "They figuratively murdered the Hoosiers. They weren't even playing very well and surely not shooting well from the outside, but that was no problem.

"Up and away. One, two, three, four offensive rebounds - and NOW the ball was in the twine. It was slam, bam and a lot of ham. Showtime from the start.

"One cardboard sign from a fan was a bit provocative. It asked: 'Who says we're a football school?' Well, everyone has sais that for a long time, and it's true enough. Now, though, it seems appropriate that those who can look over the Appalachians and away from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East, if only briefly, may be beginning to realize that Michigan's athletic prowess no longer may be counted by dents in a blocking said."

If history truly does repeat itself - then this is a perfect example.

The Wolverines have stormed back into the national spotlight, overcoming big odds to win a Big Ten title and staring at one final game that will decide whether they will win back-to-back ones or not.

And - as it just so happens - the team they must beat is Indiana, who also has everything on the line.

Sunday afternoon is going to be a fun one.


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