Key MomentAfter watching IU build a 15-point lead behind dominating play, Michigan finally woke up in the final minutes of the opening half. They quickly cut the IU lead to 11 points with just under two minutes to go and seemed to finally have control of the momentum. Verdell Jones answered, though, with a crafty bucket on the next possession and then after a defensive stop, he drove to the lane hard and earned a trip to the foul line. His two free throws with three seconds remaining extended the lead back to its biggest margin before the halftime buzzer.
When It Was OverWhen Jeremiah Rivers lost his defender on the baseline and jammed home a dunk to extend the lead back out to 63-47 with just under three minutes to play.
MVPVerdell Jones was outstanding in the opening half, scoring a team-high 14 points on his way to a game-high 24 points. But the most valuable player Saturday was Jordan Hulls, who didn't miss a shot the entire night (4-4) and just happened to make the biggest ones as well.
When Michigan was trying to push their way back into the game midway through the second half, Hulls simply wouldn't let them in. After Jordan Morgan brought Michigan to within 11 poits on a dunk and a foul, Hulls quickly hit a 25-footer to extend the lead back out. Tim Hardaway Jr. came right back with his own triple, but Hulls answered again with another jumper from nearly the same spot. When Michigan again pulled within 11 points with four minutes left to play, Hulls surprised his defender with a quick trigger from the corner and splashed the contested three to give IU the breathing room to cruise to the win. After being content to facilitate the offense in the first half, Hulls was the man with the offensive answers in the second.
Biggest SurpriseHow about Jeremiah Rivers setting the tone early not only on defense, but also on offense? We've grown accustomed to seeing Rivers' defensive efforts energize his teammates on that end of the court, but Saturday he was just as aggressive with the ball in his hands. When he nailed a 19-footer early with no hesitation, we knew it could be an interesting night for the senior guard and he went on to a 4-5 night from the field with eight points before fouling out late. His early confidence and aggressiveness rubbed off on his teammates and helped set the tone for the entire night.
Why They WonFor the first ten minutes of Saturday night's basketball game Indiana starting frontcourt dominated the game, not allowing a single Wolverine rebound. The duo of Christian Watford (6) and Tom Pritchard (5) pulled down more rebounds than Michigan managed in the entire half (7). Not only did both big men work the glass, but their energy and effort on defense stymied any inside attack the Wolverines considered and made them one-dimensional as outside shooters. Michigan's 24% shooting in the half allowed IU to pull away early and that kind of sustained IU defensive effort through most of the second half led to their first Big Ten victory of the year.
Indiana's 67% shooting from the field and 16-20 effort from the charity stripe obviously were huge as well, but we've seen hot-shooting efforts go to waste before. It was their defense, rebounding, and overall energy that carried them to victory.
Most Promising DevelopmentIt wasn't a 40-minute effort, but the first ten minutes of the game was the best showing Tom Pritchard has given all season. The junior was aggressive on the boards, moved his feet on defense, and helped the IU offense work smoothly on the other end. He finished with just two points, but his seven boards were a season-high and he managed to avoid foul trouble for one of the few times this year.
Most Concerning DevelopmentWithout a doubt Hoosier Nation was beyond concerned when Maurice Creek went to the ground writhing in pain and pulled his brace off to peak at his surgically repaired knee. Luckily, he walked off the court and seemed to be in pretty good shape in the post-game handshake line. Fans won't completely let out their breath, though, until IU's training staff gives the full update.
ForecastIt's hard to overstate what a Big Ten victory will mean to this young ball club. Before Saturday night's home win it was justified to begin worrying if the Hoosiers would breakthrough at all as one bad injury could have sealed their fate this season.
Now the team heads to Wisconsin with a very winnable Iowa game on the horizon. The Badgers will be a much stiffer test obviously. The big question for IU is whether they can pack the same kind of effort they gave Saturday night into their suitcase and take it to Madison and Iowa City next week. A very big "?" for a team that hasn't won on the Big Ten road in almost a calendar year.