Men’s basketball: Hoosiers celebrate share of title after home loss to OSU
BY ANDY PROFFET Post-Tribune correspondent March 5, 2013 10:38PM
Indiana head coach Tom Crean hugs senior Jordan Hulls after Crean introduced Hulls on senior night following an NCAA college basketball game against Ohio State Wednesday, March 6, 2013, in Bloomington, Ind. Ohio State defeated Indiana 67-58. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Updated: April 7, 2013 1:30PM
BLOOMINGTON — There was a celebration, but it was somewhat muted by the fact that Indiana lost.
The second-ranked Hoosiers can still win the Big Ten title outright, but to do so, they’ll have to do it on the road at Michigan.
Deshaun Thomas had 18 points and Aaron Craft scored 15 to lead No. 14 Ohio State to a 67-58 win Tuesday night that put a damper on Indiana’s senior night.
The Hoosiers (25-5, 13-4 Big Ten) already have a share of the regular-season title. But they could have clinched the conference’s best record with a win in the final home game for Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford.
It wasn’t to be, as the Hoosiers couldn’t recover from their lowest-scoring first half of the season. The Buckeyes (22-7, 12-5) held IU to 10-of-30 shooting in the first half to keep alive the possibility of a four-way tie for the conference title.
Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin are all still in the hunt.
Still, the Hoosiers celebrated their share of the title by cutting down the nets after an emotional senior night ceremony.
“When I think of these guys, I think of perseverance, I think of toughness, I think of maturity and I think of togetherness,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
“(And) if you’re going to write a story on perseverance, you’re going to start with Derek Elston,” he said.
Elston was the only of the three seniors who didn’t tear up during the senior night speeches, even though he admitted it was a bittersweet moment.
“It’s bitter because I realize my basketball career here at Indiana is coming to an end,” he said. “The sweet part is, we still have a lot of basketball left.”
The seniors acknowledged that they’ll be hanging a Big Ten championship banner at one end of Assembly Hall. But they all want to hang another banner at the other end — the end reserved for national championship banners.
The Hoosiers will have to fare better than they did against the Buckeyes on Tuesday night if IU is to hang a sixth national championship banner.
Down 28-25 at halftime, the Hoosiers scored the first five points of the second half to regain the lead.
But after two free throws by Watford put IU ahead 43-40 with 13:17 to play, the Buckeyes scored the game’s next eight points to reclaim the lead for good.
“I know we didn’t have the night we would have liked, but we still have a share of the Big Ten championship right now,” Crean said while introducing Watford, the last of the three seniors to speak.
His speech wasn’t quite as teary as Hulls’ — “I might get a little emotional, I’m a little girly like that,” Hulls admitted before his speech — but Watford still got choked up when talking about his family.
“They never allowed me to stop dreaming,” Watford said.
Hulls said, “I’m not the fastest guy, I’m not the tallest guy, but I knew I had to work my tail off.”
He thanked his parents for giving him his “heart, because that’s why I’m on this floor.”
It was the last time on the Assembly Hall floor for a game for the three seniors. Speculation has swirled about the IU futures of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, who could leave early for the NBA.
Zeller led the Hoosiers with 17 points despite playing just 12 minutes in the first half with foul trouble. Oladipo played only nine minutes in the first half because of fouls, not taking a shot.
He scored seven points in the second half but fouled out late as the Hoosiers had to foul to try to mount a comeback.
Watford scored 12 points as the Hoosiers finished 21-of-53 (39.6 percent) from the field.