It may not have been as big a win as last season's Final Four semifinal victory over Oklahoma, but this one gives Indiana Coach Mike Davis bragging rights back home.
Davis, a former Alabama player and assistant coach who grew up in the state, watched as his Hoosiers came back from an 11-point halftime deficit to knock off the Crimson Tide, 67-62, in a Midwest Region first-round game tonight.
"I think you could tell how badly he wanted to win this one," said Indiana senior guard Tom Coverdale, who finished with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. "You could tell he was a little uptight all week. We're glad we could get the win for him."
Maurice Williams had a chance to tie the game, but his shot from just inside the three-point line with nine seconds left was off the mark. Indiana's Bracey Wright found A.J. Moye for a dunk with 2.9 seconds left that put the game away.
Coverdale kept the Hoosiers close in the first half, and Wright and Jeff Newton, who had combined for just two points in the first half, took over after the break. Wright scored all 17 of his points in the second half and Newton added 12 as Indiana advanced to the second round, in which it will face Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.
Alabama goes home after a disappointing season in which it began the season 9-0 and climbed all the way to No. 1 in the country in December before losing 10 of its last 16. Its NCAA tournament fate was in doubt after a first-round loss to Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament.
"No one can have a conversation without bringing it up," Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said. "I'm tired of it. We're the only Alabama team in the history to be ranked number one and I'm proud of this team. We've had some great moments and tough times."
Indiana, which lost to Maryland in its improbable run to the national championship game last March, lost eight of its final 12 regular season contests but has come together and won three of its last four. Coverdale, who scored 16 of the team's 24 first-half points, hit a pair of free throws to give the Hoosiers a 23-22 lead with 6 minutes 33 seconds left in the first half. Alabama responded with a 13-1 run to close the half, which was capped by Maurice Williams's three-pointer as time expired. Williams finished with 26 for the Crimson Tide while Erwin Dudley added 18.
* PITTSBURGH 87, WAGNER 61: After watching a pair of No. 2 seeds survive first-round scares, the Panthers had no such problems.
Senior Donatas Zavackas scored 16 points, and second-seeded Pittsburgh used its trademark stifling defense to pull away in the second half for a victory over Wagner.
"Defense is what wins championships and what's going to win in this tournament," Pittsburgh Coach Ben Howland said. "Our team is very unselfish and we have toughness."
The Panthers, making their first back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances since 1987-89, improved to 57-0 against Northeast Conference teams.
The Seahawks stayed in the game for most of the first half and trailed by only four points with 10:20 left after a pair of Sean Munson free throws.
But Pittsburgh (27-4), which took an 11-point advantage into halftime, went on a 15-3 spurt to begin the second half. Wagner went four minutes without scoring early in the half and didn't convert its first field goal until 13:25 remained.
The Panthers took their largest lead of the game, 74-41, on Jaron Brown's dunk with 7:30 left in the game.
"Our defense to start the second half really keyed us to break it open," Howland added. "We were able to get wide-open looks and we never looked back."
Wagner (21-11), the smallest school in the tournament with 1,750 undergraduate students, was making its first NCAA appearance. Hall led the team with 17 points, and senior Dedrick Dye added 15.