With the odds stacked against them, the Hoosiers came up bigger than ever

021912ajThis game was supposed to be about Michigan State. At least that’s what we were led to believe. This was the Spartans chance to take control of the Big Ten race, to make a case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and to do so in front of their beloved hero, Magic Johnson.

Nobody, it seemed, wanted the Hoosiers to win this game. Few believed they could. Not the broadcasters, not the officials, and certainly not the raucous crowd inside the Breslin Center. It seemed unlikely the Hoosiers would win, given all the elements at play.

And yet, they did. When we get into March, when we get to Selection Sunday, this will be the game we look back at and say, ‘Wow, Indiana is an elite team.’ The Hoosiers have been impressive all season. They’ve won games against Michigan, Ohio State, and another one against Michigan State.

But in none of those games did the Hoosiers face the hurdles they did on Tuesday night in East Lansing. The odds were stacked against them all night. There were several questionable calls, at least one ridiculous no-call, and two late clock errors. Indiana trailed by four points with less than two minutes left. The game looked to be over, but it wasn’t.

No. 1 Indiana, 72, No. 4 Michigan State 68.

“For Indiana to come in on this night with the crowd as good as it was and the national audience,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, “I think that speaks volumes of them. They deserve the credit.”

The Hoosiers have trailed late in games before this season. Butler and Wisconsin are examples. But Indiana didn’t win those games. The Hoosiers made runs, they scored buckets, but they didn’t win a game in which they were truly up against the wall late.

On Tuesday night, they refused to accept that result. Christian Watford, who looked rattled by a flagrant foul he picked up in the second half, was able to shake it off and make one of the biggest plays for the Hoosiers since his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Kentucky last year. His 3-point play cut the Michigan State lead to one point and gave the Hoosiers new life.

“Christian was just a grown man the whole night,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “Air balling and having 15,000 people yell at him didn’t affect him one bit. We just kept coming. We had the foul situations and the flagrant, which I just trust, because those are high-level officials. He didn’t let any of that affect him. He just kept playing,”

And then there’s Victor Oladipo, who looks more and more like the National Player of the Year every time he steps on the floor. He wasn’t 100 percent, but it certainly looked like he was. No matter what happened in the game, Oladipo always looked like a guy who expected to win.

“I wasn’t the same, I’m not gonna lie to you,” Oladipo said. “But I just wanted to win and help my team win. I felt like I couldn’t help my team win sitting on the sideline.”

The way in which he closed that game — with six straight points to put the Spartans away — will be remembered for a long time.

“For me, the MVP of this league, Oladipo, made every play when he needed to,” Izzo said. “What happened is he’s got incredible heart and he just did what he does. I can give you our scouting report right now — cut him out, cut him out, cut him out — and he went and got it.”

Oladipo went and got it, and the Hoosiers took what they felt belonged to them. There was no shying away from the environment like Indiana did at times last year. There was no whining about the officials. The Hoosiers just made plays.

Derrick Nix asked us to give him something Oladipo can do that Branden Dawson can’t. Well, the list would be too long to include here. But to start, Oladipo can make plays at winning time. Dawson wasn’t even on the floor down the stretch. Keith Appling, who Nix compared to Trey Burke, was terrible. Gary Harris missed key free throws late.

Right now, that’s the real difference between the Hoosiers and some of the other really good teams in the country. There are teams that are capable of performing at an elite level — Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, etc. — but they haven’t shown the ability to go on the road and grind out a win against another really good team. The Hoosiers have done that twice now, in the span of just over a week.

Indiana had its back against the wall in the toughest environment of the season and in front of the entire nation, and it emerged with sole possession of first place in the country’s toughest conference. For once this season, we have a No. 1 team I think we all can agree on.

  • GoIU0811

    That call on Harris’ 3 was ridiculous!! Usually late in a game like that the refs will let a little more go because they don’t want to be a factor in determining the outcome, but in this game Gary jumps into a Standing still Sheehey and they call a foul?? I think I know how Izzo’s huddle went during the timeout before that play. “Ok we are going to swing it around over here to Gary, Gary you take the 3 and make sure you draw contact, Ted you make the foul call, now lets go do our jobs and we will win this one, ok break!!!”

  • GoIU0811

    That call on Harris’ 3 was ridiculous!! Usually late in a game like that the refs will let a little more go because they don’t want to be a factor in determining the outcome, but in this game Gary jumps into a Standing still Sheehey and they call a foul?? I think I know how Izzo’s huddle went during the timeout before that play. “Ok we are going to swing it around over here to Gary, Gary you take the 3 and make sure you draw contact, Ted you make the foul call, now lets go do our jobs and we will win this one, ok break!!!”

  • Daburns0

    Even my wife said that you couldn’t understand a word DV said. He is really hoarse now. And I realize he’s had some health issues.

  • Daburns0

    He’s a complete jackass. But you have to understand his job and where he has to be on IU. He needs to incite the masses, plus he doesn’t want to look like a homer. If your an announcer or radio host, you don’t show fandom.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    ‘We just kept coming. We had the foul situations and the flagrant, which I just trust, because those are high-level officials…’

    high-level officials? that has to be sarcasm, right??

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Right now Indiana sits in the cat bird seat. There are still games to play. I will enjoy this win, but will enjoy everything the most when nets are cut down in Atlanta.

    Well done Hoosiers! Be ready for next week!

  • A_Schick

    Get used to it. ITH regularly produces columns and analysis that is of the highest quality.

  • http://twitter.com/drewmiller1 drewmiller1

    Historically, there is a slight edge to play tough defense vs to foul in that situation.

    http://kenpom.com/blog/index.php/weblog/entry/yet_another_study_about_fouling_when_up_3

  • WhatsUpKnight

    ding! ding! we’ve got a winner! good stuff.

  • WhatsUpKnight

    makes the W that much sweeter. by the way, you know what it reminds me of? the colts-saints sb.

  • MikeinNC

    I wouldn’t say anyone that ever chooses to play for Izzo chose poorly….especially at the time he made his decision.

    On another note, that was the most impressive win I have seen in a long time…complete game (coaching, adjustments, attitude, bench support, etc, etc) In the not to distant past, we would have lost that game being down 4 with time running out.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    ESPN has a hard on for Izzo. To be fair, his record is pretty unbelievable.

    And having Magic on the call in the Breslin sort of tips their hand. I love Magic, but I hope that was a one time thing.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    I actually think that was about average home cooking. That’s just life on the road in the big ten.

    The best thing is, as Justin says, the players and Crean just let it roll of their backs and won the damn thing. Even better to beat the team, the crowd, and the refs.

    That has to be the best single win of the season, right?

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    Too young for Isaiah? He had that live wire, always-on thing that VO has.

  • NotTheRealSteveEyl

    Bingo. His job is to get you to listen through the commercial break. That’s far more important than sound analysis.

    But I agree he is increasingly annoying.

  • chicohoosier

    I was thinking the same thing, but I think we take parts of what we saw such as Jordy fighting through screens well at times or getting a hand in his face at times, and forget about 19 points and several wide open 3s that he just plain missed. We won, so the storyline goes from he got lit up to he fought hard the whole game like the rest of the team.

  • chicohoosier

    at first I wasn’t totally sure he could blossom in the league, I was thinking more like a Tony Allen player, really good role player great on defense, but the more he comes out and plays the more I’m seeing a true star in the making…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Justin-Albers/726287260 Justin Albers

    Appreciate the kind words. Thanks for reading.

  • HoosierTrav

    Old B1G referee Dave Gentile stopped in my office today to try and sell us some industrial products. I asked him if he knew Teddy Valentine. He said “Ted is one of my good friends.” Soooooo I told him to deliver a message on behalf of all us Hoosiers. Basically that hes #1 in sign language.

  • HoosierCruz

    yes!! It was a nice surprise to see Jordy being so effective on Defense, I hope he keeps that up

  • HoosierCruz

    yes!! It was a nice surprise to see Jordy being so effective on Defense, I hope he keeps that up

  • SUNY_RIT_IU_Grad

    IMO, Harris would start for us at the shooting guard position. And, would also play at small forward at times. He is that good!

  • HoosierCruz

    You hit the nail on the head with the fact that B1G officials simply won’t allow teams to pull away in the B1G (especially on the road). This league is so damn concerned with being “the toughest place to play”, etc. Its getting to the point of valuing ‘entertainment’ over fair competition.

    Although, I have noticed that (minus the MSU game) the officials do typically start calling the game more fairly in the last 2-3mins, but that definitely didn’t happen last night. AND I noticed that B1G officials really punish players (Sheehey) for too much celebration with tons of foul calls. That big white dude off the bench for MSU started getting foul calls left and right after he showed a little too much celebration, and they are out for Sheehey for the same reason!

  • SUNY_RIT_IU_Grad

    The ESPN announcers don’t follow the same principles you are alluding to above. All they can talk about is UNC and Duke, regardless of who is playing. Therefore, DD doesn’t have to be so anti-homerish… VBG!

  • SUNY_RIT_IU_Grad

    Sitting in the cat bird seat! I like that… VBG!

  • Guest

    The Zeller continuation and-one?

  • http://twitter.com/BrandonTucker Brandon Tucker

    If ESPN wanted to be “Fair and Balanced” they would have had Magic and Zeke on the call last night!

  • http://twitter.com/BrandonTucker Brandon Tucker

    If ESPN wanted to be “Fair and Balanced” they would have had Magic and Zeke on the call last night!

  • IUMIKE1

    I’ll second that and in a big way. Ya listening Mr. Lyles ?

  • IUMIKE1

    I’ll second that and in a big way. Ya listening Mr. Lyles ?

  • IUMIKE1

    Good call. Maybe we should check to make sure they didn’t give the assist to Costello. lol

  • IUJeff

    Ditto and hopefully we are missing Z the same.

  • CreanFaithful

    Let me preface by saying that I am not a fan of Dakich’s commentary/radio show. But you are taking his comments out of context… that was related to the power rankings, which is a gauge of how teams are performing right now — not predictions on the future or overall rankings on the year. He also had us #1 going into this game. While he is definitely annoying, he is also very knowledgeable and trying to remain unbiased — although he will admit that he is.

  • Gbwoolman

    Regarding the refs, Ted V has historically been poor in IU games and last night was no exception but one of the other refs constantly made inconsistent calls and I didn’t catch his name. But even as bad as they were our team came together and played with poise and incredible desire. I have to give coach Crean a lot of credit for this outcome. A great game plan and the guys excecuted it well and he substituted well kept CW from exploding over a stupid T and from what I could tell he was very uplifting to our team in the timeouts. Playing against two teams one wearing green and white and the other wearing black and white at the same time for most teams is impossible but NOT IU! Now it’s on to beat minny!

  • hoosier1158

    Something really needs to be done about the poor officiating. Zeller got hacked all night long with very few calls in his favor. The foul call on Will at the end of the game is one of the most ridiculous call i have ever seen. Will was standing there, arms straight up in the air. What is he supposed to do, turn and run??

  • marcusgresham

    The one that stood out the most to me was Zeller stopping him on that last play. When I saw Harris get the ball out there with Cody guarding him I thought it was going to be trouble. He did eventually get the baseline, but then the help defense came and picked him up. That wouldn’t have happened in the previous 4 years.

  • marcusgresham

    I didn’t understand the moving screen. Yes, he was moving, but he also had the damn ball. If that’s a moving screen then every time a guy is running up the floor ahead of the ballhandler as the ballhandler weaves back and forth behind him running the defender into him it should also be a moving screen (and that’s happened to IU all season.)

  • marcusgresham

    He still scares the hell out of me and I hope he goes pro. Dude is damn solid and he seems like a good kid.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.butler.1238 Mark Butler

    LMAO….I guess that was an assist!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.butler.1238 Mark Butler

    LMAO….I guess that was an assist!

  • marcusgresham

    You guys have no idea what truly annoying radio hosts are. Come down to this part of the state and get radio from the other side of the river. There’s one clown on in the afternoon here on a show called “The Wildcat Lockerroom Report” or something like that, who is such a stuttering, grunting buffoon you’d swear they gave Casual Gamer Reed his own show.

  • marcusgresham

    I know you in particular will understand this one, but it will have to be referenced as Catlesslanta at this year’s Final Four.

  • marcusgresham

    I don’t care what the sideline reporter said–I just want her to get more face time

  • marcusgresham

    The red’s the best, though.

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    Who helped? Oh ya, that was VO again there to challenge the shot on the biggest defensive possession.

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    Truth be told, we haven’t even been flavoring the kool-aid since the Ohio State win. We just say, “yeah that’s cherry” or whatever and everybody just takes our word for it. It’s just sugar, water and a little food coloring. People keep coming back for more anyways. I’ve tossed around the idea of even dropping the coloring, but I want to make sure we get that game at Minnesota first.

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    See Marcus doesn’t even ask what flavor it is, as long as we give him red.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    That is pretty awesome. Hoosier Nation will own that city. Kentucky squeeks by Vandy at home and the radio was a buzz today with what if scenarios getting them to a final four…What a joke

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