No. 1 Hoosiers stop No. 4 Spartans
By LARRY LAGE
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Victor Oladipo shook off a sprained left ankle with a spectacular performance to lift top-ranked Indiana to a 72-68 win over No. 4 Michigan State on Tuesday night.
Oladipo’s go-ahead putback, dunk and free throws in the final minute gave him 19 points to go along with nine rebounds, five steals and a block. Not bad for a guy who didn’t play after halftime of his previous game, just three days earlier, because of the injury.
Hoosiers coach Tom Crean insisted that the junior shooting guard “wasn’t even close” to 100-percent healthy.
“There’s no doubt his foot hurt,” Crean said. “That mind was right, and that was the biggest thing.”
Indiana (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) broke a first-place tie in the conference — with four games left in the regular season — and moved a step closer toward earning top seeding next month in the NCAA tournament.
“It was a huge win for us,” Oladipo said. “We’ve come a long way.”
The Hoosiers had lost 17 straight — since 1991 — on the road against the Spartans.
“Most of those guys weren’t alive,” Crean said. “It didn’t affect them.”
Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) blew opportunities at the line.
Trailing by three with 3.7 seconds left, Harris was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He missed the first one — setting off sighs in the sold-out arena — and after making the second, he deliberately missed the third.
Indiana got the rebound — Oladipo grabbed it, of course — and he hit two free throws to seal the win.
“We were right there,” Gary Harris said somberly. “And, we could’ve won.”
Keith Appling had missed the front end of a one and one with a little more than a minute left.
“I’d say I was more upset than surprised,” he said.
Cody Zeller had 17 points — nearly doubling what he had in the previous matchup against Michigan State — while Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford scored 12 each for the Hoosiers.
Oladipo and Zeller went over the 1,000-point mark of their careers in the game, joining Hulls and Watford in the club, to give the storied program four players with that many points on the same team for the first time.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Izzo said. “They’ve got a lot of experience.”
Harris, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball last year, missed a layup in a crowded lane with 16 seconds left and finished with 19 points. Adreian Payne scored 17 and the rest of their teammates struggled offensively.
Appling, Michigan State’s leading scorer, was held to six points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“My quarterback struggled a little bit,” Izzo said.
Branden Dawson had eight points and Derrick Nix scored eight and some of his contributions offensively late in the game looked like they were going to help the school win its second game in the regular season against a No. 1 team.
Nix made a go-ahead shot — after grabbing rebounds off two of his misses — to put Michigan State ahead 64-63 lead with 3:08 left and scored again in the post on its next possession.
Harris made one of two free throws with 1:38 remaining to give the Spartans a game-high, four-point lead.
Watford responded with a three-point play on the ensuing possession to pull Indiana within a point and Oladipo did the rest.
Michigan State had won five straight and 11 of 12 with its only loss during the stretch at Indiana. In last month’s five-point loss at Indiana, Oladipo had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three blocks.
The rematch marked the first time two top-five teams have met at the Breslin Center.
It was the third matchup of top-four teams in college basketball this season — the second for Indiana, which beat then top-ranked Michigan — and was just the fourth with a pair of Big Ten teams since 1997.
“Nothing rattles us too much,” Zeller said.
The highly anticipated and hyped game lived up to the billing with end-to-end action, scrambles for loose balls, 3-point shots, blocks in the lane and plenty of physical play.
And, a banged-up Oladipo was the star of the showdown.
“Oladipo is just a refuse-to-lose guy,” Izzo said. “Winning time, he made the plays.”
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