Key MomentAn inspired effort had given the Hoosiers a late lead with under a minute to play. The Spartans called a timeout with 50 seconds remaining in regulation and drew up a play that resulted in junior Draymond Green getting an open look at a three after a solid screen. Green's attempt rimmed off the iron and into the hands of Jeremiah Rivers. The Hoosier senior was quickly fouled and sent to the line with 43 seconds left and a 78-75 lead. Rivers had been terrific at the line all season, shooting a team-best 89 percent (24-27) on the year as he approached the stripe for a one-plus-one situation. His first attempt bounced off the rim, though, and in a matter of seconds Kalin Lucas was buzzing by a stunned Rivers for an easy lay-up on the other end. What could have been a five-point lead with two made free throws was now a narrow 78-77 lead.
Moment later Rivers got a shot at redemption as he was fouled again with 19.8 seconds left. This time Rivers again missed the first attempt, but his second attempt went through to extend the lead to 79-77. The Spartans' Green would then make two free throws to send the game into overtime where IU would eventually lose a tight one. IU Coach Tom Crean spent time immediately after the buzzer consoling a distraught Rivers. While he did miss a golden chance to win the game in regulation, it was his late free throw that allowed the Hoosiers to enter overtime with a chance to win. It was little solace for a 89 percent free throw shooter who knew he had let a golden opportunity get away.
When It Was OverAfter 44 minutes of hard-fought, intense basketball the Hoosiers found themselves in overtime and in position to steal their first win at the Breslin Center since it's opening season in 1991. Michigan State's Green had just willed his team ahead again with a strong inside shot over Christian Watford to put the Spartans ahead 84-83 in overtime. With thirty seconds left the Hoosiers pushed the ball up the floor looking for the last shot.
Jordan Hulls skillfully dribbled atop the key to bring the clock down into single digits. After fighting his way through a screen he passed to an open Tom Pritchard, but instead of taking the 16-footer with six seconds remaining the junior immediately gave the ball back to an unexpecting Hulls who ran right into imposing Derrick Nix. The ball popped free and Hulls quickly fell on it and was instantly tied up by a Spartan defender.
The Hoosiers got the ball back with 1.2 seconds left thanks to the possession arrow. After a quick huddle during an official review of the time, the Hoosiers drew up a play for Jordan Hulls to come off of a baseline screen and grab the ball on the wing from the inbounds. Hulls got the pass, but turned right into a firm standing Keith Appling, whose extended arms forced Hulls to hoist up a contested three that sailed harmlessly over the rim as time expired.
MVPAlthough he only shot 5-15 from the field when it was all finally said and done, Christian Watford came up large for Indiana throughout. His 21 points were a team high and it was his aggressiveness that carried the IU offense through most of regulation play. Watford continuously attacked slower big men with the dribble, getting to the line often enough to finish 7-10 from there. When his defenders laid off of him respecting the drive, he would knock down a long jumper, finishing with four three pointers.
It was a gritty effort from the junior, who was almost forced out of the game when he banged knees hard fighting through a screen early in the second half and then again after he hurt his hand late in the second half. Both times Watford went to the bench, but quickly returned after some treatment to keep battling. His effort was epitomized in the overtime session when he jumped into a scrum to come up with a loose ball, that two Spartans were bumping heads over, to get an IU timeout called. That effort would directly lead to a Jordan Hulls lay-up to reclaim the lead late.
Why They LostThere's an old saying in the Big Ten that to win on the road you have to be 10 points better than the home team. Perhaps the Hoosiers were just nine points better on this night. It's hard to take fault with too much the Hoosiers did in this game as they came as close to winning in East Lansing as any team in the last 20 years. In the end the difference was simply the inside physicality of the Spartans, especially Draymond Green, who came up clutch over and over again in crunch time by exerting his will against the Hoosiers.
Biggest SurpriseThe big surprise was that the Hoosiers came thisclose to stealing a win in East Lansing. The fact that this young team, without two of their top players, would be in command of the contest for most of the night is pretty shocking. However, if we look a little deeper perhaps the biggest surprise was that two wet-behind-the-ear freshmen were a key factor in the game. Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey, are two freshmen who are quickly earning their wings in conference play. The duo combined for 19 points and scored in ways routine and spectacular.
Oladipo had outstanding driving lay-ups and alley-oops to finish the game a perfect 5-5 from the field in just 19 minutes of play. Sheehey played 17 minutes and knocked down several nice jumpers before making his biggest shot late in the overtime period. It was the plucky freshmen that gave the Hoosiers a 81-80 lead with just over a minute to play on a spectacular left-handed tip-in of a Watford miss over two Spartan rebounders. IU's fearless freshmen not only contributed offensively, but were very active defensively and only turned the ball over three times.
Most Promising DevelopmentThere are several positives to point to, but perhaps the most promising development revolves around the night Jordan Hulls had. Spartan Keith Appling defended Hulls as well as anyone has all season by relentlessly hounding the IU guard everywhere he went. In the first half his defense made Hulls a non-factor. It seemed like a game where the Hoosiers would just have to forfeit Hulls' offense.
That's what makes Hulls 17 point, four assists, four rebound night so encouraging. Despite dogged defensive attention from the Spartans, Hulls still found ways to score big baskets for the Hoosiers down the stretch while also facilitating the offense as usual. It's no wonder the Hoosiers turned to Hulls with one shot left in the game as there is no more trusted offensive weapon on the team right now. The former Mr. Basketball is quickly becoming a complete player that, when healthy, can't be denied from having a big impact on each game.