Hoosiers take the hard road for Big Ten title

  • 03/10/2013 9:37 pm in

031013ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Against the odds, Indiana clinched sole possession of the Big Ten title. That’s the way it was supposed to be, though. Right?

Think about it. This Indiana team, at least the seniors and the juniors on it, started from the bottom with nothing ever handed to them. They grew into the nation’s No. 1 team, became everyone’s pick to win the national title after a road win at Michigan State, and then fell off again.

A loss at Minnesota had some questioning the Hoosiers’ toughness. A home defeat against Ohio State on Tuesday night brought even more questions.

Maybe clinching a conference crown at home on Senior Night would have been top idealistic. Would have seemed too perfect, too easy. Nothing for these seniors has ever come that way.

Instead, the Hoosiers went on the road to Michigan, where no team had won this season and only one had won in the last two years, and pulled out a fairly miraculous win.

They looked disorganized and sloppy in the first half, and trailed by five points with only 52 seconds left. The Big Ten title was bound to be split between four teams.

But the Hoosiers, much like they did in East Lansing last month, found a way to win with big plays at the end.

Indiana 72, Michigan 71. The Hoosiers have their first championship of the season.

“It just gives us momentum,” said Indiana forward Will Sheehey. “We needed to win the Big Ten title outright. We stumbled our last couple weeks, but we just stuck with it together.”

If it was just a share?

“It definitely wouldn’t feel this sweet,” guard Remy Abell said.

Other than when they jumped out to a 10-3 lead, the Hoosiers looked unlike themselves in the first half. Shots didn’t go, lineups didn’t make sense and the edge didn’t seem to be there.

Despite playing much better in the second stanza, Indiana still trailed by five with 52 seconds left. Michigan makes free throws and protects the ball, the game is over.

But Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke each missed the front end of one and ones, and Cody Zeller scored six straight points to put the Hoosiers back on top.

Entering the game, every national media outlet was talking about the race between Victor Oladipo and Burke for the Big Ten player of the year. Zeller reminded everybody why he was on the cover of some many preseason magazines (25 points, 10 rebounds).

“Cody, Cody, Cody Zeller should be the player of the year,” Oladipo said afterward. “If you guys don’t give it to him, no disrespect, but there’s something wrong with y’all.”

Added Indiana coach Tom Crean: “That is one of the best players that’s ever gonna come through Indiana, and we’ve got some good ones coming in. No matter how long he stays, he’s one of the best players.”

Everything had to go right for the Hoosiers to win late. They had to convert on every offensive possession, Michigan had to miss three free throws, and Indiana had to stop the Wolverines on their final trip down the floor.

Burke went around a screen from Jordan Morgan, got to the left side of the lane against Zeller and flipped it up. It was long, but Morgan was there for the tip. The ball bounced on the rim four times.

“I was trying to blow at it from where I was,” Abell joked.

The ball eventually rolled off, Christian Watford saved the rebound to Jordan Hulls, and the game was over.

“We got a really good look by Trey, and then Jordan, that tip in, I just thought for sure that baby was going in,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “It woulda been great, but it didn’t work out. They get the win. And the championship.”

Oladipo immediately galloped to the bench and jumped into Sheehey’s arms. He then stumbled toward midcourt, stopped, and laid face down with his hands over his face. When Oladipo got up, there were tears flowing from his eyes. He embraced an emotional Crean near the sideline.

“The past couple games, I didn’t bring it at a high level,” Oladipo said. “I wasn’t myself. Coach Crean reminded me of what got me here and why I’m in the postion I am. I just went back to the old Vic, to the reason why my teammates need me to win. It was a variety of emotions. It all just kind of came out.”

The Hoosiers have had a lot of signature wins this season, but this was the most important one. It not only gives them the conference title, but as Sheehey says, it gives them much needed momentum heading into this week’s Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament that follows.

Indiana was up against a wall, and it won. I’m starting to wonder: Would the Hoosiers want it any other way?

“Nobody thought we were out of time,” Crean said. “Obviously they gotta miss a couple shots to help you out, but nobody felt like we weren’t gonna come down and make plays. They stayed committed to what was working. And they knew that No. 40 was impossible to guard tonight.”

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  • BluegrassHoosier

    Our guys love taking the hard road, which is great because our bracket in Chicago looks harder than the #2 seed’s:

    http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/big10/sports/m-baskbl/auto_pdf/2012-13/misc_non_event/2013_mbb_bracket.pdf

  • shknqk

    What was more precious and valuable, the Oladipo postgame interview with Clark Kellogg, or as described in Forbes today?

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2013/03/10/indianas-victor-oladipo-set-to-cash-in-on-outstanding-2013-season/

  • VICtory is Ours

    Actually 2nd championship of season (Legends Classic). Inside the Hall is great though. Best site out there

  • VICtory is Ours

    Actually 2nd championship of season (Legends Classic). Inside the Hall is great though. Best site out there

  • Jim

    What a generous thing for Oladipo to say, that Zeller deserves Player of the Year. This team seems to have a lot of classy people on it.

  • Jim

    What a generous thing for Oladipo to say, that Zeller deserves Player of the Year. This team seems to have a lot of classy people on it.

  • SCHoosier

    I think the toughness questions were answered big time in this game..coming from behind several times in a very hostile environment.. Yes..UM choked at the line..and yes..IU made enuff mistakes of it’s own (giving corner 3’s..lateTO’s and quick shots etc)..but IU had one more point at the end..and that’s all that was needed. Let’s get thru the euphoria..enjoy the moment..give these coaches and players the credit they deserve..then buckle down and really focus on the team play and toughness that will be required to survive the one and done tournaments. Great work team!

  • Ray Finkle

    What. A. Win!!!

    Still a bit worried about landing the Indy regional. Here’s a thought. If Gonzaga loses tomorrow the No.1 seeds are looking like : Duke, IU, Kansas, Louisville.

    If UL wins Big East tourney, and we don’t win B1G tourney, do the cards leapfrog us to the midwest (Indy) region.

    We could be shipped to LA with the Zags out. Not tryin’ to be a buzzkill.

  • The only right and just thing, is Zeller and Oladipo, B1G Co-MVPs.

  • Wow is this serendipity. An all revenge game bracket for IU! Wouldn’t want it any other way.

  • MillaRed

    Big Ten coaches and media would rather break a leg than give Cody and Vic co-MVPs. Fact is, Vic was the more consistent player and the best defender in the conference. Cody and Burke’s defensive abilities pale in comparison.

    Vic is the MVP. Locked it down today.

    Bo Ryan Coach of the year? Barf! Consider what Crean needed to do to get here. If he doesn’t win that award I give up on all of the political stuff involved with that voting.

  • MillaRed

    Big Ten coaches and media would rather break a leg than give Cody and Vic co-MVPs. Fact is, Vic was the more consistent player and the best defender in the conference. Cody and Burke’s defensive abilities pale in comparison.

    Vic is the MVP. Locked it down today.

    Bo Ryan Coach of the year? Barf! Consider what Crean needed to do to get here. If he doesn’t win that award I give up on all of the political stuff involved with that voting.

  • PDXHoosier

    I think Burke will still win B1G POY. Obviously, I would much rather it go to Vic or CZ, but it’s hard to argue against any of them. Unfortunately, ppg is probably how TB wins

  • Thrilled.

  • IUFan

    When do the big 10 awards get announced?

  • agzaiu

    Agreed!! The toughness was definitely there. If anyone was getting pushed around, it was UM by the Hoosiers. The positives were that we had less negatives than the last 3 games. Every once in a while, we got comfortable and played only isolation with little off the ball movement/screens and passing. Yet, it was much better than the previous 3 games, we had a lot more movement, more looking for the open man, passing in and out.

    UM is a great matchup for us. We’re bigger, stronger, faster and better defenders. The best team won, which doesn’t always happen, especially on the road. I mean, these guys hadn’t lost in Crisler. And we got it done.

    Much love to the Hoosiers. Now let’s get out there and continue to get better (move the ball via the pass, find the open man) and win two more championships!!

  • iuoiu

    My dream road -> Illinois – Wisky – OSU – champs.

  • BluegrassHoosier

    I have the same concern. UofL is sneaking up on us. We probably need 2 more victories to hold them off for the Midwest #1.

    My #1s – IU, Zags, Duke, UofL.

  • They don’t give the COY award for recruiting, or for meeting expectations. You do read the comments sections, right? Most fans seem tho think that this team won DESPITE Crean’s coaching, coached itself and un-followed Crean after every time out. Izzo, Smart, Stevens and Coach K have their schools’ fans trust. Not so Tom.

  • Indy regional means lots ‘O Hoosier Nation at every game. We need to give them the home court advantage wherever they play.

  • Kris

    Count me in as someone who thinks we won BECAUSE of Tom Crean, not the opposite. I don’t pay much attention to naysayers and Crean bashers.

    On that note, Crean for COY and Vic for MVP.

  • Ole Man

    Heck, I would! LOL!

  • hoosierkamp

    Well written article…. really couldn’t have been said better. I cried after game yesterday and almost again now……. I love these guys and this team

  • hoosierkamp

    Well written article…. really couldn’t have been said better. I cried after game yesterday and almost again now……. I love these guys and this team

  • Arsdale

    Where did you see the Kellogg interview of Vic? The CBS station in Indy switched right after the game and I never saw it. I didn’t find it on the CBS website either.

  • BCharles9295

    It was a magical, scary (at times) game. Worrisome initially in the first half, but our guys hung in there for an awesome win. A great game from both teams.

    My son and I were there seated in the middle of a yellow sea, he in his candy stripes. We were able to talk a little with Terry Hutchens in the concourse before the game, which was very cool. The best part of the evening was post game. We were given access to the tunnel by their locker room. We were able to get pics with anyone we asked, being careful not to interrupt family time and asking nicely instead of running up and posing. ALL the guys were so gracious and nice, taking time to talk with my son, who is 11 and was totally starstruck when he got a picture with CZ in particular. Derek & Jordan talked with him as well, and it was an experience he will not forget (neither will his mother and I). Calbert Cheney spoke with my wife and me for a few minutes too, a very nice man. Then my son got a picture with Coach Crean to cap off the night followed by a delicious meal at Pizza House there in Ann Arbor (it’s good, but I still like Mother Bear’s better 🙂 ) I hate to sound melodramatic, but it was a truly magical night. I’m still beaming and so is he. I was really touched and impressed at how the players acted postgame. Class acts, all of them. I hope they could tell how much the fans appreciate what they do.

    Thanks to all the players. Go Hoosiers!

  • BCharles9295

    It was a magical, scary (at times) game. Worrisome initially in the first half, but our guys hung in there for an awesome win. A great game from both teams.

    My son and I were there seated in the middle of a yellow sea, he in his candy stripes. We were able to talk a little with Terry Hutchens in the concourse before the game, which was very cool. The best part of the evening was post game. We were given access to the tunnel by their locker room. We were able to get pics with anyone we asked, being careful not to interrupt family time and asking nicely instead of running up and posing. ALL the guys were so gracious and nice, taking time to talk with my son, who is 11 and was totally starstruck when he got a picture with CZ in particular. Derek & Jordan talked with him as well, and it was an experience he will not forget (neither will his mother and I). Calbert Cheney spoke with my wife and me for a few minutes too, a very nice man. Then my son got a picture with Coach Crean to cap off the night followed by a delicious meal at Pizza House there in Ann Arbor (it’s good, but I still like Mother Bear’s better 🙂 ) I hate to sound melodramatic, but it was a truly magical night. I’m still beaming and so is he. I was really touched and impressed at how the players acted postgame. Class acts, all of them. I hope they could tell how much the fans appreciate what they do.

    Thanks to all the players. Go Hoosiers!

  • SCHoosier

    Yes…most of the country didn’t see the interview post game..if anybody can find it please post it.

  • MillaRed

    Thanks buddy you are a true visionary. I know nothing about how this stuff works.

    “Unfollowed Crean after timeouts.” Ludicrous.

  • SCHoosier

    I’m concerned about a vote split between Cody and Vic..giving the total to Burke by default.

  • MillaRed

    We can never predict what is going on that’s for sure. But there are facts involved here, IU is the undisputed B1G champ. They took it on Burke’s home court. The same kid that had 6 TOs in a loss to Penn State! The official B1G cellar dwellar that cost Michigan a share of the B1G.

    The award needs to go to a Hoosier. They meant just as much to their team and are THE CHAMPS!

  • Tonight on BTN.

  • TampaHoosier

    I think this may be it. My local CBS cut out right after the game too.

    http://www.cbssports.com/video/player/play/videos/ImzukNEVUVjX

  • Arsdale
  • shknqk

    I saw it in a quick reaction… I think from espn, but I was delirious, so