NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- After Calbert Cheaney scored a career-high 3 points in Indiana's overtime victory over seventh-ranked Florida State in the semifinals of the Preseason National Invitation Tournament, Hoosiers coach Bob Knight talked about how many times his senior forward failed to box out the Seminoles.
As hard as he looked, even Knight could find nothing wrong with Cheaney's performance in last night's championship game at Madison Square Garden. The 6-foot-8 senior forward, a consensus preseason All-American, scored 36 to lead fourth-ranked Indiana past No. 6 Seton Hall, 78-74.
"I thought after the first game with Florida State, Cheaney had scored a lot of points, but I didn't think he played well," said Knight. "I think tonight he played a great basketball game, and I use that word sparingly. He was hard to guard, and he's not always hard to guard. Tonight, I don't think even I could have guarded him."
Cheaney got the Hoosiers going by hitting his first four shots in a 15-3 run for Indiana to start the game. After the Pirates began their first in a series of comebacks, Cheaney helped the Hoosiers forge their biggest lead at 29-16.
When Seton Hall (3-1) charged back, cutting its deficit to four by halftime and taking a 54-48 lead with 12:26 to go, Cheaney helped Indiana (4-0) regain the lead. And, finally, Cheaney scored six straight points to put the Hoosiers in control, 69-60.
Asked how he felt about Knight's criticism after the semifinals, Cheaney said: "I agreed in that I scored a lot of points, but you have to play the other parts of the game. Coach Knight let me and the other players hear about it."
The Hoosiers obviously listened. They out-rebounded the Pirates, 41-34, including 17-10 on the offensive boards. They held Seton Hall's All-American guard, Terry Dehere, to 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting. But what stood out was Cheaney, who was named tournament MVP.
Neither Indiana's performance nor Cheaney's surprised Seton Hall coach P. J. Carlesimo or any of his players. The Pirates might be a little overrated, but the Hoosiers could be a little underrated.
"He's a great player, and they're a great team," said senior forward Jerry Walker, who was held to four points and two rebounds for the Pirates. "I think they're going to be in the Final Four this year."
The victory sent the Hoosiers (4-0) happily on their way back to Bloomington, Ind., where they will get ready for next Saturday's showdown against second-ranked Kansas at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
About the only thing Indiana will have to work on between now and then is its free-throw shooting. The Hoosiers made 20 of 32 and kept things interesting by missing some foul shots down the stretch before securing the victory on two free throws by Cheaney with 20.9 seconds left and one by Greg Graham eight seconds later.
"We were terrible from the free-throw line at the end," said Knight. "But I was really pleased with how hard we played. I would have been disappointed had we lost, but I would have walked away knowing that we played hard. I was pleased by that."
It was not an easy trip for the Hoosiers. In both games here, they fell behind in the second half after holding big first-half leads, coming back from 12 down to the Seminoles and from six last night. They also lost a key reserve, forward Pat Graham, who broke a bone in his foot for the second straight year. He said last night that he will have bone-graft surgery next week.
But, by coming back the way they did, these Hoosiers endeared themselves to their hard-driving coach. At least until Monday night's exhibition game against the Cuban National Team. And Indiana beat two top 10 teams in the semifinals and final to win the championship.
"I don't think it was important that we won the tournament," said Knight. "This is by far the best tournament that is played until the NCAA tournament. What was really important is that we got to play four games. I told them before we played Tulane [in the quarterfinals in Bloomington], Let's not get our butts beat here and not get to New York."