DES MOINES, Iowa (March 18, 2016)- It’s been four years since Indiana and Kentucky met on the hardwood. The two schools simply couldn’t come to an agreement to keep the series going. Calipari wanted a neutral court setting and the Hoosiers wanted Rupp Arena and Assembly Hall.
The NCAA, however, decided it was time for these two teams to have a chance at another go around. Saturday night, the rivalry reignites.
None of the players on the current Indiana roster have experience this blueblood match up but they certainly remember watching it through the years, and one moment in particular stands out.
“I remember watching that game when Christian Watford hit that game-winning shot against them,” freshman Thomas Bryant recalled. “That was a great game all around from both teams. They still play that Watford buzzer beater every day at Assembly Hall.
“I can tell every time at home games when that shot comes on the big screen,” Robert Johnson said on the eve of their meeting with Knetucky. “How loud the fans get when it shows, that’s a sign of the significance that shot had.”
And someone who remembers the significance of that shot best, is former Indiana forward Derek Elston who is now back with Indiana on Tom Crean’s staff. The IU alumn has done his due diligence this week, reminding current players of the importance of this rivalry.
“It was one of the first things that Yogi to me this morning, ‘What was it like and what do you remember most from when you played Kentucky?'” Elston said as he took a seat in the lockeroom for a rare occasion of being interviewed by the media. “I’ve just been kind of reiterating the pace and the crowd and the atmosphere and telling them how it’s going to be unbelievable and that they’re going to have to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Rivalry history aside, the team can’t get too caught up in the hype. They’re focusing on a very defensively-sound Wildcat team.
“They block a lot of shots, ” Johnson noted. “So we just have to move the ball and make sure we get good shots and we crash the defensive boards.”
And as if this game needs another storyline added to it, the match up pits two of the best point guards in the nation against one another, Yogi Ferrell and Tyler Ulis.
“The main thing with him is that he looks very comfortable out there leading his team coming off screens,” Ferrell told the media in the lockeroom following Friday’s practice. “The main thing is trying to take away some of his openings.”
Indiana and Kentucky tip off on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. on CBS.