WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana held a slim edge on Michigan State for most of Sunday’s game and held on even though Michigan State cut their lead to one point with 3:32 to go. The No. 7 Hoosiers claimed a 75-70 in over No. 13 Michigan State in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall.
Michigan State last held the lead with less than 4 minutes to go in the first half. Indiana took a 33-31 lead with a 3-pointer by junior guard Will Sheehey. The Hoosiers trailed by as many as seven points in the second half, but Michigan State cut the deficit to 71-70 with 3:32 to go on a fast break dunk by Michigan State freshman guard Gary Harris. IU sophomore center Cody Zeller got a block on the ensuing possession, then drove from the top of the key for a layup with 1:38 to go to make it 74-70. Zeller took a critical charge from junior forward Adreian Payne with 14 seconds to go and IU senior guard Jordan Hulls hit one more free throw to provide the final tally.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: IU junior guard Victor Oladipo posted arguably his most spectacular peformance as a Hoosier, leading Indiana with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting while also recording seven rebounds, six steals, three blocks and an assist. He ignited the crowd with a steal and a fast break dunk on the game’s first possession, and was disruptive the rest of the game on defense, helping cause 19 Michigan State turnovers.
Senior forward Christian Watford had 12 points and six rebounds and had a strong second-half effort in the post, mostly dealing with Michigan State’s Adreian Payne. Freshman guard Yogi Ferrell had 11 points and three assists, and hit a big 3-pointer at the half to send the Hoosiers into the break with a six point lead. Hulls had 10 points, on three 3-pointers and junior swingman Will Sheehey had eight points, hitting two 3-pointers and providing a strong defensive effort inside and outside.
Zeller finished with nine points and seven rebounds, making only two of his seven field goals. The second was a gem, however, as he took the ball at the top of the key about 30 feet from the basket, drove off a ball screen and went all the way to the rim, finishing with his left hand.He also had a critical block on an attempted rebound putback by senior center Derrick Nix, and stepped in to draw the charge from Payne on another shot that would have made it a one-possession game with 14.3 seconds to go.
Michigan State stayed in the game in large part thanks to 3-pointers. Freshman guard Gary Harris, last year’s Indiana Mr. Basketball and a Hamilton Southeastern graduate. faced a chorus of boos and defamatory chants all game long but still hit five 3-pointers and scored 21 points. Junior forward Adreian Payne had 18 points and nine rebounds and hit as many 3-pointers — three — as he had all season until this game. Sophomore swingman Branden Dawson also had 12 points and eight rebounds. However, junior guard Keith Appling finished with three points, zero assists and four turnovers.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana used a mixture of man-to-man and 2-3 zone defense that had its positives and negatives. The Hoosiers caused 19 turnovers, the most Michigan State had committed in conference play, and scored 26 points off of those turnovers, including 14 on fast breaks. They also gave up 11 3-pointers in part because of the zone, but also because of some slow rotations in man-to-man and because Michigan State took advantage of some of their post doubles. However, the Hoosiers also made sure they weren’t overwhelmed in the post and played Michigan State close to even inside. Each team scored 30 points in the paint and Michigan State won the rebounding battle by just one.
Just as importantly, the Hoosiers defended without fouling and Michigan State did not. Appling fouled out in just 19 minutes of action and Indiana went to the line 20 times while Michigan State shot a total of just six free throws on 13 Indiana fouls.
On offense, Ferrell and Oladipo were lethal on dribble drives. hulls hit three key 3’s and Sheehey also hit a pair of big 3’s to open up the offense. The outside contributions were good enough that the Hoosiers didn’t need much from Zeller.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: This is Indiana’s newest biggest statement game, cementing for anyone who did not already believe that the Hoosiers are in fact among the elite teams in the Big Ten and the nation. Michigan State appeared to have established itself as the most capable challenger to preseason favorites IU and Michigan and the Spartans were clearly going all out for the mild upset and what would’ve been a massive road victory. Indiana managed to take them down in a character-building game in which they never had reason to feel truly comfortable and were always just one or two plays from blowing the lead. They withstood that pressure, and a very capable Michigan State squad, for 40 minutes. Now only a road game at Purdue separates them from what is arguably the Big Ten’s marquee game of the year Saturday against Michigan.
WHO SAID WHAT:
Tom Crean: “This was a game of adjustments. That’s what it was the entire game. The one thing that never needed to be adjusted was our energy, our attitude towards winning and our spirit. They were high0-level the entire way. … I think that’s why after the game with the CBS interview, Greg Anthony said that this game ahd the feel and the execution of a Final Four game. And I hope he’s right, because I think they are really, really good. For us to get this win in this environment, for us to make the plays that we made especially at the end, for us to make the defensive stops that we made to get the buckets that we needed to get, I thought that was huge.”
“You’ve got to be in some fights. We’ll get better from this, and I’m certain Michigan State will get better from this. If you’re goign to win over the long haul, you’ve got to find ways. Our guys had great will.”
“It was winning time and Cody answered the bell. He rang the bell. TO get that charge and then get that drive and make that play in the heat of the game, that’s where his mental toughness is. … That mental toughness is always there. he’s so non-statistic driven, and that’s why he’s such a winner because he just does what it takes
On the drive:
“The play that we ran where he got the layup off the high pick-and-roll is something that we’ve been sneaking into our 5-on-5 work and I knew I was goign to call it at some point and he went out there and executed it. That’s a high-level player hat can do something like that. He was 30 feet away from the bucket and drove that thing in for the layup with his left hand. Those are the things that make a difference.
‘Victor Oladipo did somethign in the first half that I’ve never been a part of in coaching. He had 15 deflections in a half. He ended up with 22 in the game and six steals. Victor is a great example. We watch a lot of film as a team, but he always watches that much more. He’s getting a knowledge base to go with those instincts and his talent and his athleticism and the more he does that, the better he’s going to be.’
Victor Oladipo on going after steals.
“I kind of see it as the game develops and just read the passers eyes and blast the gaps. I think I did a good job of that tonight.”
On how they caused turnovers: “Just being aggressive on defense. Nobody’s really pressured them all year long. I think we wanted to do a good job of that tonight. I think Yogi set the tone with that defensively on Appling, getting him frustrated a little bit. I think our team did a great job of that tonight.”
“That’s just Victor now,” senior forward Christian Watford said. “It’s definitely part of our offense now. We feel like we’re a great team when Victor does that. He brings a lot of energy. He gets us open by the way he attacks the basket and stuff like that. He did a great job tonight.”