HUTTON: Indiana shakes off history in statement win
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or firstname.lastname@example.org February 19, 2013 11:02PM
EAST LANSING, MI - February 19: Cody Zeller #40 of the Indiana Hoosiers shoots a second half shot after Matt Costello #10 of the Michigan State Spartans fell down at the Jack T. Breslin Student Events Center on February 19, 2013 in East Lansing, Michigan. Indiana won the game 72-68. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:42AM
EAST LANSING, Mich. — East Lansing really is like Death Valley for Indiana.
Every time the Hoosiers depart there, bankrupt and defeated, they leave just a little piece of themselves on the floor.
And they get to say, “Next year” and they get to wonder what it would be like to actually win one of these games in the 21st century.
There is no next year for IU this time. The Hoosiers buried the curse of the Breslin Center, where they had lost 17 straight games, by outdueling Michigan State in the final minute with a series of spectacular plays. IU waved goodbye to 22 futile years of trying to get one at the BC. The Hoosiers won’t have to deal with that problem anymore. It’s over.
The game was everything that it was billed to be. The No. 1 ranked Hoosiers versus the No. 4 ranked Spartans, with the Breslin Center losing streak hanging around their neck like an untightened noose. And the Tom Crean versus Tom Izzo angle. Neither team has been concurrently this good since Crean took over at IU. Everybody wanted this game in the worst way.
This time, it was Michigan State and its frantic, incredibly loud, jazzed up crowd that filed out into the cold night air wondering what had just hit it.
There was an army of red-clad players that pummeled the Spartans on their own playground.
There was Jordan Hulls making 4-of-6 from 3-point land. That included the NBA variety 3-pointer and the pull-up 3-pointer off the fast break
There was the efficient inside play of Cody Zeller, who finished with 17 points and helped the Hoosiers out early by scoring six of the first eight.
There was the steady play of Christian Watford, who made two clutch 3-pointers with a man in his face and who had the pass of the game when he hit a streaking Victor Oladipo with a perfect baseball throw with 10 seconds left, giving IU a 70-67 lead.
There was the steady, rock solid play of the IU defense, which harassed MSU into 4-of-15 shooting from 3-point range and forced 12 turnovers to go with 12 assists.
It was Oladipo, though, who absolutely ruined the Spartans with a tip-in layup after a Yogi Ferrell miss with 43 second left. Hobbled by an ankle injury, Crean was emphatic afterward that Oladipo wasn’t 100 percent.
He was good enough to finish with 19 points and nine rebounds. He was good enough to finish way better than he started. Good enough to foil MSU by making 7-of-11 from the floor and playing 30 minutes on a gimpy ankle.
Quantifying the victory for the Hoosiers is hard to do. Let’s just say it’s huge. It gives them control of the Big Ten and it gives them a degree of psychological control over the second-best team in the Big Ten.
Plenty of people wondered if the Hoosiers were really better than MSU after the Spartans destroyed Michigan at home by 23 points last week and after they only narrowly lost to IU at Assembly Hall.
Plenty of people don’t need to wonder anymore. If you beat MSU at the Breslin Center, not the house that Izzo built but definitely one that he put a couple of additions on over the years, there is no need to wonder anymore.
The truth is, that even as Gary Harris, who was on the free-throw line with four seconds left with a chance to tie game after he was fouled by Will Sheehy going for a 3-pointer, MSU didn’t really deserve overtime.
Indiana was in control — not firmly, not comfortably — but in control for about 37 of the 40 minutes. The Breslin Center doesn’t lend itself to comfort and ease for visitors. It’s a loud, garishly green, intimidating place. There are five Final Four banners hanging from the rafters and two national championship flags. They were invisible to the IU players.
“They came into our place where we should be eight points better and controlled a large part of the game,” Izzo said. “They outplayed us. We did not play well and they had a lot to do with that.”
Finally, IU has the Spartans’ number at the place that has haunted the Hoosiers. They can move on now, to bigger and better things.