Resiliency. Moxie. Poise.
Those are just a few of the superlatives one could use to describe Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Hoosiers on Tuesday night against the Michigan State Spartans, especially late in the game.
The Thrilling Finish
Leading all players in both points (19), rebounds (9), and steals (5), Oladipo sure didn’t look or play like someone who had suffered a mild left ankle sprain just three days earlier.
Prior to Derrick Nix’s putback with 3:07 remaining, which gave the Spartans a 64-63 lead, the Hoosiers had been in control and leading throughout most of game.
Up until that point, in fact, Michigan State had only led the game for a total of 3 minutes and 29 seconds. And then on the very next play, Derrick Nix stole the ball on an inside pass to Cody Zeller and scored once more, making it 66-63 with 2:37 to go; it was a beautiful spin on the low block with a left-handed finish over Christian Watford.
Following a timeout and an official review of a questionable incident in the paint on the next play (Nix made contact with Zeller in his nether regions, but nothing was called and Indiana simply inbounded the ball), Watford missed a relatively good look from deep, and Keith Appling grabbed the rebound.
On the subsequent possession, Gary Harris slashed through the lane and nearly converted an And-one after drawing a blocking foul on Yogi Ferrell. A 76% free throw shooter, Harris’ first shot fell short and hit front iron, but he collected himself and calmly drained the second.
Down 63-67 with 1:38 remaining, the Hoosiers were in hot water. They had been in the lead. They were in control. What was happening?
Fortunately for the Hoosiers, Indiana’s saving grace came in the name of Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo.
With just under 90 seconds remaining, guarded closely by the taller but slower Adreian Payne, Christian Watford drove hard to his right from beyond the arc into the paint to just past the free throw line.
Perhaps sensing the contact, or maybe even the moment, he then pulled up from about 12 feet and buried the shot in Kentucky-esque fashion, all while simultaneously drawing the foul, fading backwards, and drifting to his right off of his left foot. It was an astonishing shot.
He drained the free throw to make it 67-66, Spartans.
And then it was Oladipo’s turn.
Following an Appling miss on the front end of a one and one after a Zeller reach-in foul, the Hoosiers rebounded and pushed the ball up the court to Ferrell, who drove hard to his right for a layup… and missed. But crashing the offensive glass and tipping the ball back in was none other than Victor Oladipo, giving Indiana a 68-67 lead.
After a Gary Harris layup bounced out of bounds, an unbridled Oladipo broke free and sprinted down the court and received a cross-court inbounds pass from Watford for an instant two-handed slam to give the Hoosiers a 70 to 67 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
And then we all saw what happened: With 3.7 seconds left, Gary Harris was able to draw a foul on Will Sheehey behind the three point line, despite Harris largely initiating the contact.
After missing the first free throw, he then sank the second, but had to intentionally miss the third and hope for the offensive board.
When he did, who was there to collect the rebound? None other than Victor Oladipo, who then calmly sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to ice it, 72-68.
What an incredible finish to an incredible match-up, it’s another memorable game for what’s becoming a memorable season.
And now that we’ve taken a minute to relive those last minutes, let’s review our Four Factors:
As is expected of a game this close, the teams were split statistically.
Indiana shot their fourth lowest percentage of the season (44.3%) with an eFG% of just over 50%. The Hoosiers were even better defensively, however; they held the Spartans to an eFG% of 46.4%, their lowest percentage at home all season.
Both teams did a fairly decent job of taking care of the ball; Indiana had 10 turnovers to State’s 12.
The Spartans pulled down just one more offensive rebound (13), but where they really kept the game close was at the free throw line.
The Hoosiers made just 10 free throws on only 15 attempts, their second lowest total made all season (the least was 9 against UNC), whereas Michigan State went 16-23; Izzo was effective at taking away one of Indiana’s best strengths – it was only the fifth time that the Hoosiers had fewer free throw attempts than their opponent, and their free throw rate of 16.39% was the second lowest of their 27 games played so far.
Stat Of The Game
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Top 25 teams: 6 wins, 0 losses
The Hoosiers are now 6-0 against top 25 teams this season, and 4-0 against teams in the top 10; they’re truly at their best when they’re playing the elite, and they’ve played exceptionally well in big games.
They’ll likely have two more ranked games at home against #17 Ohio State, and then the season finale at #7 Michigan. It’s also worth noting that the Hoosiers won in East Lansing for the first time since 1991, breaking a streak of 17 straight losses.
Indiana has a week off between road games, with their next game at Minnesota on Tuesday.
Minnesota is coming back home after suffering huge blowout losses at Iowa and Ohio State, losing by 21 and 26 respectively, after previously upsetting now 17th-ranked Wisconsin at home in overtime. The Golden Gophers have only lost twice at home this season, so the Hoosiers need to hold the Barn in high regard if they want their 25th win this coming Tuesday.