Michigan and Indiana. Two of more storied programs in NCAA history, battling it out for Big Ten supremacy and the nation’s number one ranking.
The Hoosiers, backed by NBA-level talent Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, were looking to knock off a top-ranked team for the second time in as many years.
The Wolverines, enjoying their return to the top of the polls for the first time since the Fab 5 and the 1992-93 season, were seemingly ready for the formidable task of defending their ranking in none other than Assembly Hall.
With future NBA stars of their own in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., the stakes were set for an epic regular season match-up between college basketball’s best.
But with all the hype and history, this game couldn’t possibly live up to expectations, could it? Oh, it could. And did.
Fortunately for the Hoosiers, all of the anticipation and excitement boiled over in their favor at the start of the game, and Indiana rocketed out to an 18-7 lead with 15:25 to go by hitting their first six shots from the field and logging an incredible effective FG% of 133% during that span.
By the 10 minute mark, their lead had swelled to fifteen and what would ultimately turn out to be the Hoosiers’ largest margin of the evening: 28-13.
Shortly after, Yogi Ferrell picked up his second foul, had to come out of the game, and was very clearly visibly upset with himself. As a result, Indiana’s offense stalled, and Tom Crean experimented with a variety of different guard rotations with Remy Abell, Will Sheehey, and even Maurice Creek seeing a couple of first half minutes.
They couldn’t get going again, however; and the Wolverines whittled the Hoosier lead down to four on Trey Burke’s incredible pull-up 3-pointer over Will Sheehey as time expired to make it 36-32 at halftime.
Riding the momentum afforded to them at the end of the first half, Michigan came out and quickly forced a 40-40 tie in the opening moments of the second. But the Hoosiers responded with an 11-0 run, and temporarily regained control of the game.
From that point forward though, the game intensified into a back-and-forth battle of two teams who knew that they had temporary conference and national supremacy on the line.
In fact — and I’m not quite sure if I’ve ever seen this before, or even the true rarity of this occurrence — during a period of about six and a half minutes in the middle of the second half, Indiana and Michigan would get scoring contributions from eleven different players consecutively before another player scored again, on either team (If you look at the play-by-play, it starts with Hulls’ made 3-pointer at 15:24, and ends on Burke’s jumper with 9:06).
It was an incredible display of team basketball, in which nearly every player took a turn having his impact on the game.
Eventually, Trey Burke made it a 61-58 game on an and-one following a steal with under 5 minutes to go, but it was the closest the Wolverines would get for the rest of the game.
Indiana was able to execute down the stretch, especially from the free throw line, hitting 10 straight free throws in the final 69 seconds of play.
Unable to get stops, loose balls, and rebounds when they mattered most, Michigan ended up falling to Indiana, 81-73 in another Big Ten classic, and easily one of the most exciting basketball games of the year.
As usual, we’ll look at our Four Factors to determine which areas of the game each team excelled in, and which areas they didn’t:
As was evidenced in both the game and our tables, we can see that Indiana shot the ball better, out-rebounded, and got to the free throw line at a far better rate than what the Wolverines were able to accomplish.
I believe this can largely attributed to their willingness to push the tempo and the Hoosiers’ aggressiveness, which, consequently, was both beneficial and detrimental to their play.
They were stronger both on the glass and in the paint, pulling down 14 more rebounds, and taking 18 more foul shots.
There may be something to be said about a couple of the officiating calls as well, but the Hoosiers certainly put themselves in the position for those calls to be made (and for maybe one or two to go their way, although I do not believe that Michigan loss could be directly attributed to officiating).
Conversely, Indiana’s tempo often was on the brink of control, and frenetic; They suffered because of it, turning the ball over 16 times and largely allowing Michigan to stay in the game. Had Indiana reigned in the oft-unbridled Ferrell and Oladipo and controlled the tempo and the ball a little bit better, the Hoosiers very well may have won by double digits.
Apart from turnovers, however, the Hoosiers played a complete game, and one that was worthy of the nation’s top ranking.