The 1953-54 “Hurryin Hoosiers” were poised to continue their success from the previous season.
Coming off their 1953 NCAA title, the second for Indiana under coach Branch McCracken, IU would return all of its regular rotation players, including the starting five of Don Schlundt, Bobby Leonard, Charlie Kraak, Burke Scott, and Dick Farley. Newcomer, sophomore Wally Choice, was also expected to be a major contributor.
The Hoosiers knew the pressure that came with attempting to repeat as NCAA champions. In the 15-year history of the NCAA Tournament, only two teams had repeated: Oklahoma A&M (now known as Oklahoma State) in 1945 and 1946, and Kentucky in 1948 and 1949.
McCracken knew the target was on the backs of the Hoosiers, but felt his team could compete with anyone in the country. Entering Big Ten conference play, the Hoosiers stood 6-1, with their lone loss to Oregon State.
Indiana would win its first five Big Ten games, and Don Schlundt, the leading scorer for the Hoosiers during the 1952-53 season at 25.4 ppg, blistered opponents with his dominant inside play. Schlundt would average nearly 30 points per game during those first five IU victories.
Ohio State would arrive in Bloomington on January 18. 1954, hoping to disrupt Indiana’s dominant start to conference play. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, it was not to be.
Schlundt, whose skillful play down low was unmatched in the conference, scorched Ohio State with a 47-point performance, leading Indiana to a 94-72 victory. The 47 points by Schlundt set a new Big Ten single-game scoring record. (Schlundt would match his own record again in 1955, scoring 47 points against, once again, Ohio State.)
The remainder of the 1954 Big Ten season would be successful for Indiana. They would ultimately finish atop the conference standings with a 12-2 record, the fifth Big Ten Championship in the program’s history.
However, the dream of back-to-back NCAA titles would not come to fruition.
Notre Dame, who Indiana had beaten in the 1953 NCAA East Regional Finals to advance to the Final Four, defeated IU in the 1954 NCAA East Region Semis, 65-64.
The Hoosiers finished the season 20-4 overall. Don Schlundt. who repeated as Indiana’s leading scorer with 24.3 ppg, was named First-Team All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten. Bobby Leonard earned Second-Team All-American and All-Big Ten honors.