WHAT HAPPENED: No. 1 seed Indiana scored the last 10 points of the game to rally to a 58-52 victory over No. 9 Temple on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in front of 12,495 at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio. The Hoosiers advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season and will play No. 4 seed Syracuse on Thursday in the NCAA East Regional semifinals at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.
The Hoosiers trailed 41-35 wih 9:59 to go and fell behind 52-48 with 3:09 left, but Temple didn’t score after that with a block by senior forward Christian Watford being part of one of five defensive stops to end the game. Senior guard Jordan Hulls hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 52-50. Sophomore center Cody Zeller then hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 52-52. Junior guard Victor Oladipo gave the Hoosiers a 53-52 lead with a free throw, then hit a game-clinching 3-pointer to make it 56-52. Senior forward Christian Watford tacked on two free throws for the final tally.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Victor Oladipo came up with a number of huge plays down the stretch to give the Hoosiers the win. He finished with 16 points and eight rebounds and shot 7-for-12 from the field. The 3-point shot was the dagger, but his defense late was also critical. Temple guard Khalif Wyatt scored 31 points, but he didn’t have a field goal in the last 6:31 mostly because Oladipo was face guarding him and not letting him get the ball.
Sophomore center Cody Zeller had 15 points even though he was just 4-for-10 from the field. He was 7-for-8 from the free throw line and had two assists, but also had six turnovers in a generally uneven performance.
Junior wingman Will Sheehey had 10 points. Senior forward Christian Watford had nine points and eight rebounds, including what is arguably the play of the year for Indiana, a blocked shot on Temple’s Anthony Lee that kept The Owls from taking a two-possession lead again with 2:18 to go.
Senior guard Jordan Hulls only scored five points, but both of his shots were critical. He suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, but his return seemed to calm the Hoosiers who looked generally harried offensively throughout the game.
Wyatt scored 31 points for Temple on 12-for-24 shooting, but the rest of the Owls had just 21 points. Sophomore forward Anthony Lee was 5-for-8 with 10 points and senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson had eight points and seven rebounds and was 4-for-7 from the field. However, no one else made a field goal. Swingman Scootie Randall was 0-for-12 from the field, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. Senior forward Jake O’Brien was 0-for-4 and had four fouls.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana just found a way.
The Hoosiers didn’t look in sync offensively at any point. They looked heavy legged. Their shots weren’t falling, even when they got the ball inside. They struggled to finish at the rim, and Temple made sure every shot they took was contested and that every Indiana ball-handler had a defender in his face. The Hoosiers turned the ball over 12 times and even though their final percentage was a respectable 42.2 percent (19-for-45) the offense never looked that good. They lost the rebound battle 35-32 and gave up 14 offensive rebounds. The guy they spent their entire game plan trying to stop went off for 31 points. It seemed like Indiana’s dream of a sixth banner was slipping away, and many times the Hoosiers seemed helpless to stop it.
But they found a way.
Temple never got separation. As much as it appeared that the Owls were in control, they never held a lead greater than six points. As good as Wyatt was, no one else could hit shots, and when Oladipo finally started face-guarding him, no one else really responded. The Owls shot just 33.9 percent from the field and 3-for-24 from beyond the 3-point arc. Other than Wyatt, the rest of the team was 9-for-38. Despite that, the Hoosiers needed all 40 minutes to put the game away.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Hoosiers advance to the Sweet 16 and do so for the second consecutive year for the first time since a four-year run from 1991-94. But they do so just barely and move on to play a Syracuse team that will provide a challenge unlike anything they’ve seen so far. The Hoosiers have done well against zones, but they’ve usually only played teams who have used the zone as a gimmick or change of pace. Syracuse does it religiously.
The concern is that the Hoosiers looked fatigued on Sunday. Eventually, they summoned what they needed and got by, making sure they at least matched the run of last year’s surprising squad. But this year’s team came in with much higher expectations as the nation’s preseason No. 1 team. Anything short of a national title would be considered a disappointment, anything less than a Final Four a failure. A loss Sunday would have been considered an unmitigated disaster. On Sunday, they did well to avoid that.