Ohio State win confirms it: Indiana is for real

  • 12/31/2011 11:50 pm in

Indiana shocked the nation when it pulled a 73-72 upset against then-No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 10.

But not everyone was convinced the Hoosiers belonged amongst the country’s elite teams.

“He [Christian Watford] just hit a lucky shot,” Kentucky’s Doron Lamb said after the game.

The No. 15 Hoosiers’ 74-70 win against No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday night should eliminate the remaining doubters.

This team is for real.

“Give all the credit to Indiana,” said Ohio State star Jared Sullinger. “They played hard, and they got the 50-50 balls. They made us turn the ball over. Indiana played a great basketball game.”

Some of the shock factor is gone this time around because we’ve seen the Hoosiers do it before. But that doesn’t make this win any less impressive or significant.

The Hoosiers matched and sometimes exceeded the physicality of one of the nation’s most physical teams. They matched big Ohio State shots with bigger ones of their own. And they won a game in which they didn’t have Cody Zeller (fouled out) or Will Sheehey (left foot injury) down the stretch.

The win against Kentucky, by itself, could have been a fluke. Saturday’s night’s performance proves it wasn’t.

“Everyone is being asked to contribute a little more, especially defensively and minutes-wise when you have a player like Sheehey out,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “They did it. They never flinched when we were down throughout the game, especially the last five or six minutes. They made plays.”

Jordan Hulls made plays.

He looked as good as he ever has in the second half on Saturday, and he helped will the Hoosiers to victory. After Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit a 3-pointer in his face to put the Buckeyes ahead late, Hulls went down and hit an even deeper one in the face of William Buford.

Christian Watford made plays, even though he shot just 3-of-10 from the field. His late rebound and clutch free throws clinched the game for the Hoosiers.

Victor Oladipo made plays throughout. His two steals and dunk late in the first half completely changed the momentum of the game.

Zeller made plays, even though he played only four minutes in the second half. Remy Abell was huge defensively off the bench on Aaron Craft. Derek Elston guarded Sullinger as well as anybody when Zeller and Tom Pritchard were out.

And Verdell Jones, who has been here through it all, made plays. He had 15 points, six rebounds and three steals while playing with a hip flexor. His late steal and pass ahead to Oladipo gave the Hoosiers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

When asked how this year’s Indiana team is different than last year’s, Ohio State coach Thad Matta gave a typical answer.

“Obviously, with the addition of Zeller inside and they’ve got depth, he’s a great player,” he said.

Yes, Zeller makes a humongous difference for this team. But it’s not just about him. It’s about guys like Jones that, like Crean, have turned Indiana back into a program capable of knocking off the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same month.

“He’s a grown man. I’m proud of him, and all those seniors,” Crean said, getting choked up like I haven’t seen before. “It’s really something. They have persevered. … Couldn’t be happier for those guys.”

The next step for the Hoosiers is to win a game against an elite opponent on the road. They’ll have a chance in less than two weeks when they visit these same Buckeyes.

Until then, though, they can take in the new year knowing they are indeed a legitimate contender in college basketball.

Only they could have predicted that.

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  • Anonymous

    I was thinking it’d be better if Hulls missed the shot to the clock would start ticking right away and OSU wouldn’t get the advantage of a long inbound pass and a set play..they were gonna have to scramble and get a shot off to send it to OT. Glad it worked out the way it did!!

  • Anonymous

    that WAS a nasty dunk! And as much as i disliked that it came from an OSU player, it was still a thing of beauty. Victor had a nasty dunk at the end of the first half also:)

  • Anonymous

    Here’s something that will make you think….imagine the stones CTC would show if our recruits are invited to the next IU v OSU on THEIR court. Of course, that would be stupid…or would it?!?! I’m thinking this happens next year.

  • Anonymous

    You’re probably not the only one but I think you’re probably in the minority.  OSU is a very good team and anyone who beats them this year is not going to look their best doing it.  This game was about heart and teamwork and overcoming horrible officiating on both ends.  I also think that the the “horrible plays the last three possessions” were a direct result of being down rather than up 30pts for only the second time this year in the waning seconds and trying to overcome the deficit in the face of a tenacious IU defense.  It may not have been the prettiest game to watch but I’m giving IU all the credit for the win.  It was not handed to them.

  • Anonymous

    You’re probably not the only one but I think you’re probably in the minority.  OSU is a very good team and anyone who beats them this year is not going to look their best doing it.  This game was about heart and teamwork and overcoming horrible officiating on both ends.  I also think that the the “horrible plays the last three possessions” were a direct result of being down rather than up 30pts for only the second time this year in the waning seconds and trying to overcome the deficit in the face of a tenacious IU defense.  It may not have been the prettiest game to watch but I’m giving IU all the credit for the win.  It was not handed to them.

  • Brklynhoosier

    Good points.  I don’t want to take credit from IU — w/ what this team has gone through the last 3 years, no one’s handing them -anything-.  But I do think we were far from our best.

  • Show

    Thank you for saying this isn’t all about Zeller. I love him just like all IU fans do, but good lord, he’s gotta be the most overrated player in America by announcers. It’s like every single possession is wasted if he doesn’t get to shoot from the post according to the likes of Dakich, Dickie V and the BTN guys. It’s amazing. This is a complete team. IU was actually playing better at MSU with Zeller on the bench. Give him credit, sure, but man it’s gotta be toned down. 

  • Show

    Thank you for saying this isn’t all about Zeller. I love him just like all IU fans do, but good lord, he’s gotta be the most overrated player in America by announcers. It’s like every single possession is wasted if he doesn’t get to shoot from the post according to the likes of Dakich, Dickie V and the BTN guys. It’s amazing. This is a complete team. IU was actually playing better at MSU with Zeller on the bench. Give him credit, sure, but man it’s gotta be toned down. 

  • jgon86

    I’m going to make a special shout out to Remy Abell.  As  soon as Crean took Hulls away from guarding Craft the whole dynamics of the game change.  Both he and Victor disrupted the flow and distribution to Ohio state’s big men.  It also made Kraft tired so that Hulls could get that extra space need to shoot effectively.  Great coaching. 

  • MillaRed

    I agree. Victor is our best player. He’s looking very “NBAish”

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Hopefully we’ll have WS back by then.  If not, we can win but OSU will be looking for revenge on national TV.  I would would not want any recruit there that might have OSU on their list regardless?

  • nativehoosier

    I love what I’m seeing, but don’t think “we’re back.” It’s like hooking up with an ex-girlfriend for a romp or two.

    When we consistently win – and expect to win – against tough opponents, whether at home or on the road, we’ll be back.

    At least that’s how I remember it from the Damon days.

  • Anonymous

     Yes there were some “sour grapes” from some of the media pundits following the game..but hey..IU b-ball is back as a major subject in American sports…I’ll take that any day. In fact..the guy who said he wants to see IU beat a top team on the road is right…that will seal the deal that the Hoosiers are “back” ..and I think IU will do it before the season over. IU may even lose a couple of road games they should win..but if the team stays healthy..emphasizes defense and get their half court offense to be consistent..all things are possible!! These guys WANT to win..don’t mind who makes the shot..and are listening to their coach (most of the time)

  • IUJeff

    Zeller is not over-rated. He could average 20 if IU was even decent at feeding the post.  

    Also, the media is not necessarily screaming for Cody to score more, they are talking about the need to play though Cody in the half court. And like me, they get frustrated by IU’s inability to feed the post.

  • IUJeff

    Rolled his ankle coming down on a ball in practice I believe. Rumors of a month ish. 

  • Zmartin72

    Does anyone know if there is going to be a replay of this game and when it is or may be?

  • Anonymous

    That’s funny, because those two conferences are traditionally the worst basketball conferences. Stick to football guys, you don’t know basketball.

  • Anonymous

    It would be pretty hard for Verdell to walk without a hip flexor, let alone play basketball.

  • Anonymous

    It would be pretty hard for Verdell to walk without a hip flexor, let alone play basketball.

  • Silkyslim

    A big ‘AMEN’ to that IUJEFF, the post feeds MUST improve.  Our guys need to set-up their feeds with some fakes as they read, NO telegraphing !!!

  • Yimyames

    Marquette D-Wadish!

  • Anonymous

    Wow i can’t believe i forgot Roth.  But yes def invovles him too

  • Anonymous

    there is a place to click “watch replay” just under the final score…

    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/recap?gameId=313650084

  • Anonymous

    Yep.  Dakich may have been the first media guy to blow the IU horn.  Props also to Ken Pomeroy who, through his ranking system recognized IU well before any other.  By the way, FWIW, he currently has them ranked 7th and on pace for a 26-5 record.

  • Eastwood88_20

    They have earned it. Less talent since the mo Pete, cleeve days and still hitting final fours. Izzo is a great coach. Some thing to respect. Painter and Ryan get props from me also. They just forget recruiting is part of the game….worst coach in the big ten? My top two are weber and tubby ….thoughts?

  • Eastwood88_20

    They have earned it. Less talent since the mo Pete, cleeve days and still hitting final fours. Izzo is a great coach. Some thing to respect. Painter and Ryan get props from me also. They just forget recruiting is part of the game….worst coach in the big ten? My top two are weber and tubby ….thoughts?

  • Anonymous

    Not contradicting you, just chiming in.  I’m a die-hard fan since ’72 and I feel like we’re back.  I don’t need the rest of the season to count the losses and grade their quality to tell me that.  I love this team and I love the direction of the program.  HOOSIERS!!!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget Derek. He came up huge yesterday after a rough game Wednesday.

  • MillaRed

    The Hoosiers would be 10-4 without Zeller. There is no overrating going on at all.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not so sure the Buckeyes are overrated…perhaps our Hoosiers are underrated. Hmmmm?

  • Show

    Agreed with the first sentence. The problem is that so many people see “overrated” and think it means “sucks.” It’s a relative term. I’m saying these announcers are acting like the only reason IU ever scores is because Zeller is standing there and the team is hopeless without him. They count touches before the under-16 timeout in the first half. It’s insanity. If they act like he’s Lew Alcindor right now, they are overrating him. That’s not an insult to Zeller, who is absolutely one of the top three frosh in the nation. 

  • Lklinstiver

    Awesome game! Thanks to the players and coaches!  Happy New Year!

  • Jwwhit

    Jack Nolan, I too live in Seattle but also have a home in Indiana as well. The contrast in Indiana basketball and what the PAC 12 plays is stunning,

    Basketball at its finest is a team game in which the sum vastly exceeds the parts.
    That is a concept that Lorenzo Romar and idiots like Doug Gottlieb with their love of individual talent fail to understand. It is also why the craven national media is always dumbfounded by a Butler beating all of the “Big” programs.

    Washington as far as I can tell has only one legitimate team. Mens rowing. That is a team in every sense of the word with some of the greatest athletes in all of college sports.   

  • nativehoosier

    I think I may be suffering from the “If it’s too good to be true” syndrome.

    I haven’t been happier in years. These guys are heroes.

  • Anonymous

    I would say that 25-6 would probably be a little closer w/the remaining 5 losses coming @ PUke, @ Mich, @ Wisc, @ OSU (this game will likely be a disaster), and @ Minn. However, I would say that the @ Minn, and @ PUke games could be substituted for a stumble at home or a loss on the road against a weaker opponent than those I mentioned. However, it is very hard to envision IU losing at home now. They really need to keep their foot down and really take it to Michigan in their next game, which is on the 5th at Assembly Hall. That game scares me..

  • Anonymous

    Lol.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, practically depressing, but the other guys have filled in well. I’m thankful we have the likes of Remy Abell, Austin Etherington, and Matt Roth. Roth’s shooting ability alone can be a game-changer, but he also holds his own on defense. Abell’s defense is top-notch, as he has shown this year including last game against Craft. Etherington holds his own on defense as well, not to mention can shoot, pass, and hustle. It’s impressive that, despite losing its 6th starter, Indiana can still win big games like the OSU game.