Indiana’s shot vs. Syracuse still smarts
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
So it’s Indiana vs. Syracuse in the East Regional Thursday. Who else to get on the phone but Keith Smart?
His winning jump shot lives forever. The 16-footer from the left baseline with five seconds left in the 1987 national championship game; the last time these teams met in the NCAA Tournament. It has never left him, and never will.
“No matter what, for the rest of my days, I’m going to be attached to that moment,” Smart said Monday from Sacramento, where he is coach of the NBA Kings. “I’m glad that shot did go in, because I’d be the one who missed it, rather than the other way around.”
What does he remember 26 years later? The silence. Syracuse led 73-72, and there was one chance left, and the crowd in the New Orleans Superdome was 64,959. He had just scored 10 of his team’s last 13 points to keep the Hoosiers afloat. Yet all he heard was silence.
“The game seemed to have slowed down for me,” he said. “Players talk about they get into a zone. You don’t get that very often. That zone is when you have all the time in the world to make a shot. I didn’t hear anything in the arena. I didn’t see anything. It was like I was playing basketball by myself.
“I didn’t hear noise again, until the shot went in.”
That distant replay shines anew this week with the Hoosiers and Orange playing. Smart came to understand long ago how one shot can echo through the years.
Before the 2012 NBA draft, he needed to check out a Syracuse player. That meant calling Jim Boeheim, the Orange coach now, and the Orange coach then.
“I said, ‘Hey Coach Boeheim, this is a name from the past. It’s Keith Smart.’ And he paused and said, ‘Keith Smart, Keith Smart. I’ve got to tell you it took me a long time to get over that.’
“And I said, ‘Coach … [For more on Lopresti: Indiana's shot vs. Syracuse still smarts, click here.]