WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana won the most highly-anticipated college basketball game to date this season, staving off No. 1 Michigan 81-73 in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall, which was hosting ESPN’s College GameDay. The combination of the No. 3 Hoosiers’ victory and No. 2 Kansas’s loss to Oklahoma State earlier in the day makes it likely that the Hoosiers will take back the No. 1 ranking for the first time since they lost it with their Dec. 15 loss to Butler at the Crossroads Classic
The Hoosiers opened the game on a 20-7 run and held a lead as big as 28-15. They made nine of their first 11 shots and 11 of their first 14. Michigan stormed back in large part to Indiana turnovers to cut the deficit to 36-32 on a 3-pointer by Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke right before the half, then tied the game at 40 early in the second half. The Hoosiers responded with an 11-0 run after that, but Michigan twice cut the lead to two points and trailed just 64-60 with 3:51 to play.
A 3-point play by junior guard Victor Oladipo got the Hoosiers some breathing room, however, and sophomore center Cody Zeller chased down a long offensive rebound that led to two free throws by freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, which gave the Hoosiers a 71-62 lead. Michigan made three 3-pointers in the final 39 seconds, but Ferrell also made six free throws in that time to put the game away.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Zeller re-inserted himself in the national Player of the Year discussion with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was 8-for-10 from the field with four dunks, two of which came right after Michigan cut the deficit to 57-55. He also posted two critical blocks.
Senior forward Christian Watford also posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in one of his most physical performances. He was 4-for-7 from the field and also completely neutralized explosive Michigan freshman forward Glenn Robinson III. Robinson finished with just two points on 1-for-6 shooting and just four rebounds.
Junior guard Victor Oladipo had another stellar effort with 15 points, two assists and two steals, and also was part of the committee that forced Michigan’s Trey Burke to take 24 shots to get his 25 points. Oladipo was effectively used as a closer on Burke late in the game, and he was the most successful in keeping Burke out of the lane.
Ferrell was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line and also drilled two early 3-pointers to finish with 14 points and five assists. Senior guard Jordan Hulls knocked down three 3-pointers to finish with 11 points. Freshman swingman Jeremy Hollowell also had his best performance in Big Ten play with three blocks in 10 minutes.
Burke still had a productive evening for Michigan with 25 points and eight assists. Junior guard Tim Hardaway had 18 points. Freshmen Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary had 10 each.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers consistently got to the rim throughout the game and hit outside shots early. They shot 52.0 percent from the field (26-for-50) and knocked down seven of their 18 3-point attempts, going 5-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. Against a Michigan team that fouls extremely little and came into the game ranking second in the nation in opponents free throw attempts to field goal attempts ratio, the Hoosiers got to the line 25 times and made 22 free throws. They won the rebounding battle 38-29 and even though they had fewer offensive rebounds than Michigan (nine to 12) the Hoosiers got 14 second-chance points to Michigan’s six.
Michigan got back into the game almost entirely because of turnovers. Indiana gave the ball away 16 times to Michigan’s eight and the Wolverines got 21 points off those turnovers. The Wolverines took 20 more shots than the Hoosiers in large part because of that, and were in the game even though they shot a significantly lower percentage (42.9 percent).
The Hoosiers cut down on turnovers from the first half to the second half, however, giving it away just five times in the second half. The Hoosiers’ rotation of defenders on Trey Burke also eventually took its toll. Ferrell defended him early and did a solid job, but Oladipo practically swallowed him up late. Burke made just three of his last nine field goal attempts in the game’s last nine minutes.
WHAT IT MEANS: This win answers any and all questions about the Hoosiers’ legitimacy, validates their preseason No. 1 ranking and will almost certainly earn it back for them when the polls come back Monday morning/afternoon. With their seventh win in school history over a No. 1 opponent, they have claimed a victory that will have implications all the way through March. The Hoosiers are now alone atop the Big Ten, and they have the edge in a series with Michigan that could very well determine who gets the No. 1 seed in the Indianapolis (Midwest) Region. Saturday’s game featured the highest combined ranking of opponents in Assembly Hall history and the Hoosiers’ victory could resonate as one of its most important regular season wins ever.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“We were picked No. 1 back in April. We hadn’t done anything. So all of the sudden when you lose, it’s like, ‘Well, how did you lose? We picked you No. 1.’ That’s not what they play for. Those things are nice, but the playing to improve, the playing to be good enough to win a game like this, to be able to make adjustments, to be able to play through some mistakes and deal with some adversity and grow up in the games, that’s what’s most important. I don’t get the sense that our guys are locked into those rankings at all. When we weren’t No. 1 in mid-December, they know what was said. They could feel all of that. Were we any worse because we lost by two? We didn’t play that great that day. But it wasn’t like the sky was falling. We had to come in here and make sure that they understood that. That’s what’s most important. When your team loses sight of the most important thing as how they play together and how they work and improve together, then you have issues, and we don’t plan to have any issues.”
On Cody Zeller’s long rebound
“Cody’s loose ball rebound late on our end offensively was unbelievable,” Crean said. “He’ll have some SportsCenter dunks, but that loose-ball rebound, that’s why he’s such a special player.”
On getting back to No. 1
“It’s a huge accomplishment. We started there, and we’ve had a hard road to get back here.”
“We played solid, We came together when things were getting tight. Yogi did a terrific job of stepping up and making free throws at the end. … Without everybody we couldn’t win. We know we needed everybody to step up and play today, and I think everybody did a good job of that.”
On Zeller’s dunks
“They were huge, That’s what he does. He makes big plays at big times. That’s why he’s the Big Fella. Hopefully he continues to keep making those big plays for us, because we need him.”
On his long rebound
“I was just trying to keep it alive and make a play down the stretch. I always pride myself on the hustle plays, all the little things that anyone can do. So it was a big play, I guess.”