Jared Sullinger might have won the statistical battle with Cody Zeller on Saturday night in Assembly Hall, but it was Indiana who walked off Branch McCracken Court with a 74-70 victory over Ohio State.
Sullinger, the heavy preseason favorite to win the Big Ten Player of the Year, finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, but was limited in the first half with two fouls.
And a big part of that foul trouble was the presence and craftiness of Zeller, who bounced back from what he called a “bad game” on Wednesday at Michigan State.
“He’s a good basketball player. Very creative around the rim. He’s strong,” Sullinger said of IU’s prized freshman. “A lot of freshmen don’t come in strong and ready to play in Big Ten basketball. It’s a very physical conference as you can see today. There was a lot of banging, a lot of physicality down low and even on the perimeter.”
Zeller finished with 14 points and four rebounds before fouling out with 2:24 remaining.
“Give him all of his respect. He played one hell of a game,” Sullinger added.
CROWD A FACTOR SANS STUDENTS
The decibel levels didn’t measure up to IU’s 73-72 thriller over No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 10, but the home court advantage of Assembly Hall was still fully in tact.
“They were responsible not only for some baskets, but also for some stops. The building was electric,” Tom Crean said. “The Hoosier Nation is so incredible. To have that kind of energy in the building without the student here obviously due to break was awesome.”
The atmosphere was a factor in the eyes of Sullinger, too, who compared it favorably to “Phog” Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Ks.
“It had the same effect as Kansas,” the Ohio State sophomore said. “Even though I was sitting on the sideline. You walk off the floor, they hang a L on you and your ears are ringing because the fans are so loud. Hoosier Nation was very loud today and they gave a very good home court advantage.”
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.
Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 74-70 win over No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday night at Assembly Hall. Watch and listen to his comments in high-definition video in the embedded player below:
Six IU players — Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls, Verdell Jones and Victor Oladipo — met with the media following the Hoosiers’ 74-70 win over Ohio State on Saturday night in Assembly Hall.
Watch and listen to both press conferences in high-definition quality in the embedded media players below:
Check out 26 photos by Jamie Owens from Indiana’s 74-70 win over No. 2 Ohio State at Assembly Hall in the embedded photo gallery after the jump.
Thoughts on a 74-70 win over the Buckeyes:
For about the first 30 minutes tonight, this game was devoid of flow.
Whistles dominated. And key players found themselves in foul trouble. The Buckeyes’ top three scorers — Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and William Buford — all ended the contest with four fouls. Thomas and Sullinger sat for a large chunk of the first half with two early ones each. As a result, the Hoosiers went on a 23-13 run after Sullinger left with his second foul and went into the locker room with a 33-32 lead. Cody Zeller, for the first time this season, fouled out with 2:24 to go in the game. It all affected defense. Often, Sullinger, Thomas and Buford — not wanting to pick up another foul — played off Indiana some and allowed them to get buckets at the rim. By the time this one was over, Indiana had outscored Ohio State 38-34 in the paint after the Buckeyes had protected the rim well to start the game.
Thankfully, this one wasn’t won or lost for either team due to fouls. Things opened up the last 7-8 minutes, and it was a joy to watch. Each team trading bucket after bucket, the lead changing and changing, both teams unable to pull away. Neither led by more than three from the 9:06 mark onwards until two seconds to go in the contest, when Christian Watford hit two free throws to put the Hoosiers up four and seal the deal.
So it would come down to late-game execution. And the Hoosiers, as they did against Kentucky, as they weren’t able to do for so long under Tom Crean, were the ones getting it done when it mattered. Down 70-69 with just under 40 seconds to go, Jordan Hulls deflected an Aaron Craft pass to Sam Thompson, which tipped to Verdell Jones. Jones found Victor Oladipo — who played some tremendous defense on Craft in this one and had a strong offensive night with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting — down the court, who scooped under the hoop to avoid Thompson and score. It put the Hoosiers up 71-70. After Ohio State took its final timeout of the game, Derek Elston played strong post defense on Sullinger. So Craft drove to the hoop on Oladipo. Hulls slid over to help, leaving Thompson open near the basket. But the pass hit off his hands and out of bounds.
Hulls was fouled on the next inbounds and hit the front end of a one-and-one. 72-70 Indiana with 13.4 to go. On the ensuing Ohio State position, Buford quickly jacked a highly-contested three, perhaps thinking the Buckeyes were down by that amount. In any case, the board went to Watford, he was fouled and made the aformentioned two free throws.
Game over. The Hoosiers now the winner of contests against both the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the nation inside Assembly Hall this season. Who woulda thunk it?