Survive and advance.
Temper your emotions Hoosier Nation. Take a deep breath and remember: during March Madness that’s all anyone can really ask of their team.
Just survive and advance.
On Sunday afternoon, the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers ran into a scrappy and defiant Temple Owls team led by senior guard and Atlantic-10 Player of the Year Khalif Wyatt. For the first 35 minutes of the game, Indiana was out-defended, out-rebounded, and out-scored.
It was turning out to be a recipe for disaster: Not only could the Hoosiers not find their shot, they were getting pushed around on the offensive glass, and they couldn’t take care of the basketball.
With no defensive answer for Khalif Wyatt, there were times in the second half when the Hoosiers came perilously close to letting the game slip away; but they held on, fought back, and Indiana finally came out on top of a slow-it-down, grind-it-out type of game with a side of late heroics by none other than Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford.
Up until Oladipo’s downtown dagger to give Indiana a 56-52 lead with 15 seconds remaining, the Hoosiers had struggled mightily on the offensive end after springing out to a 20-11 lead in the first ten minutes.
Wyatt would soon take over, scoring the Owls’ next 13 points, tying the game at 24, and jump-starting the Temple offense.
The Owls would end the half with a 29-26 lead, which they maintained for the majority of the second half. Despite several opportunities, they were never able to push their advantage to anything greater than five points, however; and the Hoosiers were able to just hang around until they found a way to win.
And while Oladipo gets credit for the offensive play of the night, Christian Watford gets credit for the defensive one on a simple pick and roll.
Down 52-50 with just over 2 minutes remaining, Anthony Lee set a pick on Victor Oladipo and rolled towards the hoop. In somewhat of a defensive error, Cody Zeller left Lee to give help to Oladipo who was guarding Khalif Wyatt near the three point line. Drawing the double team, Wyatt deftly passed the ball to a wide open Lee.
After receiving the pass in the middle of the paint, Lee went up, seemingly unguarded, for a two-handed slam that would have given the Owls a 54-50 point lead. Except he never finished the dunk.
At the very last second, Christian Watford left his man, leapt towards the high-flying Lee, and swatted him clean from behind, making the block of the season.
The Owls wouldn’t register another point for the remainder of the game, and the Hoosiers would end up scoring the final 10 en route to a 58-52 victory over 9th-seeded Temple.
Statistically, it wasn’t pretty for the Hoosiers. They were beaten handily in two of the Four Factors, as you can see below:
Four Factors: Temple vs. Indiana
When the Hoosiers have struggled, they’ve often been beaten in total turnovers and on the offensive glass.
Throw in a poor shooting night as well, and Indiana’s mighty offense can suddenly only muster 58 total points like we saw on Sunday.
In fact, before the game against Temple, the Hoosiers were just 3-3 on the season when they’ve registered an eFG% below 50%. Not only that, their 19 made field goals were the lowest in any game for Indiana all season.
But aside from Khalif Wyatt, Temple’s offense was borderline non-existent, adding only 21 points on 9 of 38 shooting.
The Hoosiers generated repeated stops on the defensive end, and when Wyatt cooled off at the end of the game, Temple stalled offensively. The Hoosiers held Temple to just 3-24 from behind the arc (all three makes by Wyatt) and just .84 points per possession with an eFG of 36.29%.
The Hoosiers lost the turnover battle 12 to 10, but the most glaring statistic is offensive rebounding percentage. Temple had 14 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s 4, and it was the overwhelming factor as to why the Owls had 17 more shot attempts.
Overall, it was an ugly win for the Hoosiers, but when it comes down to March Madness, Indiana just needs to survive and advance.
Against Syracuse, they’ll certainly need to be play better, both offensively and on the glass. But if they can muster another defensive performance like we saw against Temple, this Indiana team will be well on their way to Atlanta.