DAYTON, Ohio — This was the type of game Indiana rarely finds a way to win. The pace slow, the play physical, the score low, the game ugly.
We’ve seen it too many times before. Butler. Wisconsin. Minnesota. Wisconsin again.
Temple gave the top-seeded Hoosiers everything they could handle on Sunday afternoon in Dayton. They had them on the ropes, had them frazzled. Their dream season was quickly slipping away.
But this time, Indiana found a way — an ugly, low-scoring and physical one — and the Hoosiers are moving on. They won a game in a way they never can. Now, the Hoosiers are more dangerous than ever. Now, they have won in every imaginable way.
Indiana 58, Temple 52.
“It was just a matter of time, the way our guys approached it, that things would break for them,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “If we just continued to defend, if we continued to get good shots and good ball movement and get the ball inside out on offense … That’s exactly what happened.”
What made this one different? Well, it’s really quite simple: Leadership. This team’s seniors have been through it all. They’ve lost too many times to Wisconsin and Wisconsin-like teams to let it end their collegiate careers.
Jordan Hulls, who took a brutal hit to his shoulder in the first half only to come back and hit big shots later, made sure his teammates never quit. He took control in the team’s huddles during timeouts.
“He said, ‘We were down by five with 52 seconds to go at Michigan,’” associate head coach Tim Buckley said of Hulls. “He said that with two minutes to go in the game.”
“Jordan kept saying, ‘We’re not done, we’re not done,’” Yogi Ferrell said.
Hulls’ words were important, but his actions were even more so. He was clearly in pain — he constantly grimaced late in the first half — but he refused to remain on the bench in the biggest game of Indiana’s season. Hulls wanted to be on the floor.
DAYTON, Ohio — Watch and listen to what the IU players had to say inside their locker room of the University of Dayton Arena following the Hoosiers’ 58-52 win over Temple in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
High-definition quality video is available in the embedded media players below:
Indiana’s Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller, as well as coach Tom Crean, addressed the media earlier this afternoon in Dayton, Ohio to preview tomorrow’s game with James Madison.
Watch and listen to the press conference in the embedded media player below:
There was a great deal of speculation throughout the weeks and months leading up to Sunday that Indiana’s path to the Final Four would go through Indianapolis. The Hoosiers were ranked No. 1 for a good portion of the year, and they figured to be a safe bet for the Midwest region’s top seed.
But when the brackets were revealed Sunday evening, the Hoosiers were sent East. They won’t be playing in Lucas Oil Stadium this postseason.
Why? Well, most likely because of their loss to Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten tournament semifinal in Chicago. The Hoosiers lost, and Louisville won the Big East tournament, giving them the top overall seed in the Big Dance.
“Probably,” guard Victor Oladipo said when asked if Saturday’s loss cost Indiana the Midwest region. “But I can’t go back and change time, I can’t go back and change the past. All I can do is look forward to the future.”
The Hoosiers’ path will first take them to Dayton and then to Washington D.C. if they advance to the second weekend.
“I expected our road to be kind of rough,” said senior forward Christian Watford. “That’s how it’s been since I’ve been here, so why would it change now?”
Ending up in the East could be a blessing in disguise for the Hoosiers. Most national analysts agree the Midwest region – which includes Louisville, Duke, Michigan State and St. Louis – is by far the toughest in the Tournament.
Plus, if the Hoosiers were in Indianapolis, they would be expected to win and advance to the Final Four. The pressure would be significant, and Indiana doesn’t always play well as a favorite.
“I feel like we play better on the road anyway, to be quite honest with you,” Watford said. “Our mentality is just a little different. We go in with our underdog mentality that we’ve had for so long.”