LANDOVER -- Forward Alan Henderson, who played only a cameo role in Indiana's NCAA tournament play last season when he was hindered by a knee injury, stepped front and center at USAir Arena last night.
The agile 6-foot-9 junior proved he was fully recovered, scoring -- 34 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 39 minutes to lead the Hoosiers to an 84-72 victory over Ohio in the opening round of the Eastern Regional.
Indiana (20-8) will meet Temple (23-7), a 61-39 winner over Drexel, in tomorrow's semifinal matchup.
The Bobcats (20-9), the Mid-American Conference champions, came into the game with high hopes of an upset after finishing the season with 13 straight victories. They had answers for everyone but Henderson, who beat them inside and on the perimeter in hitting 14 of his 21 field-goal attempts.
Ohio, on the strength of 12 successful three-point shots, kept the capacity crowd of 18,804 in suspense, trailing 57-53 with 10 minutes left.
At that point, Henderson joined senior guard Damon Bailey (14 points), who had discarded a protective girdle, to spark a 12-3 run and put the stubborn Bobcats to rest.
For Henderson, it was a chance to show a national television audience his true basketball potential.
"Last year, I felt we had the best team in the country," said Henderson. "But I played only as a sub for Matt Nover [29 minutes in four games], and it was really frustrating. That experience really motivated me to get ready for this one."
Not only did Henderson excel on offense, but he did an outstanding job defeding against Bobcats star Gary Trent. The Metro Atlantic Conference's leading scorer had 18 points, but only four in the second half when he made one of his nine field-goal attempts.
"They were playing behind me and fronting me," said Trent, who averaged 25.6 points in the regular season. "I had to take my game on the perimeter. But in the second half, I just ran out of gas defending all their picks and screens. My legs just gave out."
While Trent grew weary, Bailey, the Indiana prep star who led the Hoosiers with a 20.6 scoring average this season, grew stronger.
"The corset [protecting sore ribs] was making it hard to breathe," said Bailey. "It was affecting my play. I just took it off in the second half and played as best as I could."
At 6-3 and a robust 200 pounds, he proved too strong for rival shooting guard Chad Estis, who led Ohio with 23 points.
"I'm not used to playing against guards that big," said Estis, a slender 6-footer. "He's probably the strongest 2-guard I've faced and he did a great job posting me up."