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Late surge lifts Indiana past SDSU, Davis era continues

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- If it turns out to be the last win at
Indiana for Mike Davis, it might be his sweetest, too. And maybe
his most unlikely.

With his team outplayed on almost every level, the Hoosiers'
lame-duck coach had every reason to believe he'd be packing it up
for good Thursday night after the first round of the NCAA
Tournament.

His players weren't quite ready to say goodbye, though. And when
Robert Vaden hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left,
Indiana was on its way to a thrilling, come-from-behind victory,
87-83 over San Diego State.

"It didn't cross my mind about this being my last game," Davis
said. "All I was thinking about was making sure my guys fought to
the end."

They did, and came out on top in a sloppy, exciting,
gut-wrenching game for Indiana's soon-to-be-former coach.

The sixth-seeded Hoosiers (19-11) won despite letting
11th-seeded San Diego State (24-9) shoot 56 percent and despite
getting outhustled, outsmarted and outplayed by the Aztecs for 39
minutes-plus.

Mohamed Abukar led San Diego State with 24 points. Marcus
Slaughter had 13 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to
help the Aztecs win the first NCAA game in school history.

"These are hard, hard losses," coach Steve Fisher said. "To
end the season the way we did is extremely difficult."

The Hoosiers erased deficits of 10 points early in the second
half and five points a bit later. Trailing 83-82 with 40 seconds
left, Indiana's Marshall Strickland harassed San Diego State's
Brandon Heath near the halfcourt line and the ball crossed into the
backcourt.

Thinking he couldn't touch it lest he be called for a backcourt
violation, Heath tried to shield Strickland from the ball. They
both dove after it for a jump ball and Indiana got possession.

"I thought I couldn't touch it," Heath said. "If I touch it,
it would have been a backcourt violation."

Strickland claimed he never touched the ball, which would have
made it a backcourt violation had Heath touched it first.

Either way, the damage had been done.

After a timeout, the Hoosiers worked it to Vaden -- sort of. He
snagged a bad pass from Roderick Wilmont that got tipped into the
air by Slaughter. Hobbling with a hurting left ankle that almost
kept him out of this game, Vaden spotted up about a step behind the
line and swished the 3, giving Indiana an 85-83 lead.

"I was open," Vaden said. "It was like any other shot. I was
open and I knocked it down."

San Diego State's desperation possession came up empty and
Wilmont hit two free throws for the final margin.

Next up for the Hoosiers in the Oakland regional is a
second-round game against Gonzaga on Saturday.

Davis said they'll be ready.

"We've been in a situation the last three weeks where if we
lose, we are probably out of the Tournament," Davis said. "That
situation has really helped us. We showed a lot of character and
kept going and going and going."

Davis improved to 115-78 over his tumultuous six years at
Indiana, which will come to an end whenever this season is over. He
announced his resignation four weeks ago -- saying his players
deserved better than to play for a coach always under fire.

Since then, the Hoosiers have played better, finally living up
to the potential they showed when they were ranked in the top 10
early in January.

And Davis claims he's finally enjoying himself.

Dressed impeccably, as usual, in his four-button suit and red
tie, he hardly acted like a coach who wanted it to be over.
Stomping, cajoling, peering into the court, he earned his money all
the way through.

He watched the Aztecs shoot an amazing 77 percent from 3-point
range in the first half. Somehow, Indiana only trailed 44-41.

"To be down by only three when they're shooting like that, I
felt pretty good," Davis said.

San Diego State outrebounded Indiana 36-31, had one more assist
and generally took better shots and made better decisions all night
long.

But it wasn't meant to end for Davis on this night.

Vaden was one of three Hoosiers to finish with 18 points, and
maybe the most unlikely to pull it off.

The ankle injury made him a question mark for this game and he
was pressing too much at the end -- taking a terrible 3 with 7½
minutes left, then making a bad pass with about 90 seconds
remaining that could have cost the Hoosiers the game.

He came through when it counted the most -- with his coach one
miss away from unemployment

"Some people told me that if I didn't need him, I shouldn't
have played him tonight," Davis said. "Well, we needed him."

And now Davis will coach in one more game.