Big players show up for the biggest games, and after being terrible in the previous away loss, Victor Olipado buckled up and brought his best to lead Indiana in a big top 10, Big Ten match-up against Ohio State, adding to his “best player in college basketball” resume.
Some teams might have been stunned by that loss against Illinois, who went on a 13-2 run to close the game and stun the number one team in the nation 74-72. But Indiana, apparently, aren’t Kansas. Cody Zeller, Olipado and Christian Watford are made of sterner stuff, and played some of their best basketball this season against one of the tougher opponents they’ll be facing all season, winning in Columbus 81-68.
It was about learning from their mistakes – playing to win and close out games instead of just letting times pass. Ohio State are an excellent defensive team, but Indiana have the best attack in the nation. Olipado led the way with 26 points, followed by Zeller with 24 and Watford with 20. It was the first time three Hoosiers scored 20 points or more in a game since since December 22, 2006. Their 53.1% from the field was the best anyone has shot against the Buckeyes all season.
Today we got a lot of really good basketball from Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. They played as well as a triangle — three guys — that you could get. And it was on both ends of the floor. We definitely learned from the loss to Illinois. That was the main thing from that game. We let one get away but at this point we had to come into a hostile environment and get a win.
The victory was Indiana’s first against a Top-10 conference opponent on the road in more than 20 years — since a win in 1993 at Iowa. It was also the Hoosiers’ first win against any team in the top 10 on the road since beating Notre Dame in 2000. It took the two leading candidates for national player of the year, both playing on the same team, to put that little annoying stat behind the Hoosiers, who are finally back as a nationally prominent program under Tom Crean. Zeller was the one getting most of the accolades before the season, but Olipado, averaging 14.3 points per game, is just in the running as Zeller is.
Yeah, I hear it here and there. People tell me, you know, and it comes up. But I don’t even pay any mind to it, because at the end of the day that can all be taken away from you in the blink of an eye. There wasn’t anybody saying this about me last year, so I just have to keep going and do whatever it takes for my team to win. When I play at a high level, my team does.
We’re trying to focus so much on the team, and then I’ll hear, ‘Well, they’ve got the best backcourt, and this is the best defensive backcourt, and they’ve got the best frontcourt.’ At the end of the day, we’re trying to have the best team.
It seems every head coach would like his star players to be in this kind of mindset. Tom Crean, coaching probably the most talented team in the nation, hopefully keeping their number one spot when the polls come out, actually has his players in that kind of mindset.