Top ranked Indiana finished with a closing flurry typical of one of the nation’s best college basketball teams, outscoring Michigan State 9-1 in the final two minutes to end a 17-game losing streak in East Lansing and defeat the Spartans 72-68 in a taut Big Ten battle Tuesday at the Breslin Center.
With the victory, the Hoosiers claimed sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a 12-2 record. IU is 24-3 overall. Meanwhile, Michigan State’s loss damaged its conference title hopes. The Spartans fall to 22-5, 11-3 in the league.
Trailing by four with 1:38 left, the Hoosiers got a conventional three-point play when Christian Watford hit a fall-away floater in the lane and then added the free throw to cut the deficit to one. Victor Oladipo then did the rest.
The junior swingman, whose status was uncertain after he sprained his ankle in a win over Purdue Saturday, came through with another clutch performance. He laid in a put back, flushed a dunk, and connected on some big free throws down the stretch to help IU seal the win. Oladipo finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, five steals and a block. Don’t bad for a guy who with an injury. “There’s no doubt his foot hurt,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean afterward, elaborating that Oladipo wasn’t close to 100 percent. “That mind was right, and that was the biggest thing.” Oladipo focused on the end result.
“It was a huge win for us. We’ve come a long way.”
The Hoosiers had to withstand a last second foul on Gary Harris’s three-point attempt. Harris, the reigning Indiana Mr. Basketball from Hamilton Southeastern, missed the first of his three attempts, hit the second, and deliberately missed the third. The rebound was hauled in by Oladipo, who put the finishing touches on the Hoosier victory.
In a traditional Big Ten slugfest that featured plenty of physical inside play, IU’s Cody Zeller posted 17 points, Watford and Jordan Hulls added 12 apiece. Michigan State was led by Harris’ 19 points and Adreian Payne’s 17. Spartans leading scorer Keith Appling was held to six points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“Nothing rattles us too much,” stated Zeller after the late-come-from-behind effort that matched two top five teams nationally and carried not only Big Ten supremacy, but possible NCAA tournament ramifications.
Tip-in’s: Oladipo and Zeller each went over the 1,000 point career scoring mark in the contest, joining Watford and Hulls in that exclusive club, giving IU four players on the same team at the same time to accomplish that feat.