ST. LOUIS -- Indiana coach Bob Knight likes to say that when Calbert Cheaney is at his best, the All-American forward is "hard to guard." Given Knight's penchant for perfection, that doesn't happen often.
But it happened last night against Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal at the St. Louis Arena. Cheaney wasn't just hard to stop; he was virtually unstoppable, hitting 10 of 12 from the field and the foul line for 32 points in Indiana's 82-69 victory.
The victory put the top-seeded Hoosiers (31-3) into tomorrow night's regional final against the winner of last night's second game between second-seeded Kansas (27-6) and sixth-seeded Cal (21-8). It also put Indiana one win shy of going to a second straight Final Four.
The game was still in doubt, with a little more than seven minutes left and the Hoosiers leading by only 62-59, when Cheaney took over. He hit four straight shots from varying distances and with varying degrees of difficulty.
"I just tried to step up my game," said Cheaney, who also finished with eight rebounds and four assists. "Coach [Bob Knight] told me that if I kept moving, I would get my shots. I kept move and the shots were there."
Said Louisville coach Denny Crum: "The biggest difference in the game was Calbert Cheaney. We held our own with the rest of their players, but we couldn't stop him."
Louisville forward Dwayne Morton made the Cardinal sin of trying to intimidate Cheaney with some trash-talking in the first half after Morton went up for a dunk and Cheaney tried to block it. The two got into a heated, nose-to-nose discussion that resulted in technical fouls on both players.
Cheaney didn't seem affected, but Morton admittedly was.
"I was a little hyper and when that happened, I got mad," said Morton, who wound up missing 10 of 14 shots and finishing with 12 points. "I picked up my third foul right after that. Calbert got mad too, but he did a lot of good things after that."
Though that sequence resulted in a five-point swing for Louisville -- James Brewer hit a three-point shot after all the free throws -- the Cardinals found themselves behind by 50-43 at halftime.
Considering Indiana shot 17-for-23 from the field in the first half, Crum didn't feel too bad. Nor were the Cardinals in bad shape when they cut Indiana's lead to 62-59 -- James Brewer missed a trey to tie on one possession -- with a little more than nine minutes left. That's when Cheaney took charge.
"When the game is close, you should get Calbert the ball because he's our best player," said junior guard Damon Bailey, whose only two baskets of the game were key three-pointers at the end of the first half to help the Hoosiers build their lead. "But Calbert was pretty good tonight, even for Calbert."
About the only one who didn't seem all that impressed with Cheaney's performance was -- who else? -- Knight. After not taking Cheaney to the postgame press conference, Knight said only, "Calbert did a nice job."