It was all about making free throws and layups in the final moments of the Indiana – Michigan game, and the Hoosiers came out on top. Cody Zeller gave his team the lead with 13 seconds to go, while Trey Burke and Jordan Morgan couldn’t convert on the other end.
Indiana complete a double over Michigan for the first time in over a decade with a 72-71 win which was classic Big Ten basketball this season. Almost every big game between Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin went down to the wire. This time, Indiana, down four points in the final 1:25 took advantage of the three free throw misses by the Wolverines to get on top and clinch their first outright Big Ten regular season title in ten years.
Cody Zeller had his ups and downs this season, but in a game that wasn’t only about clinching the title, but also about kicking the team into the right kind of form and mood heading into the Big Ten & NCAA Tournament, he played like the best player on the court, although the eventual seasonal titles will go to his teammate, Victor Oladipo, with another terrific all-around performance. Zeller scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but his biggest play was the winning layup with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Then Michigan had the chance to win the game, but Jordan Morgan’s shot just seems to bounce around the rim forever before rolling away. Christian Watford grabbed the oh so important rebound, and that was that. Tom Crean got into an argument with Michigan’s assistant Jeff Meyer right after the buzzer. but no one was willing to say what exactly happened. It didn’t matter. Indiana were once again the dominant, physical team in the matchup, leaving Michigan with a lot of questions regarding their ability to beat physical teams along the way, while the Hoosiers proved that road wins aren’t something they’re really afraid of pulling off.
Oladipo finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, including 7 on the offensive glass. Indiana beat Michigan 47-26 on the boards, which included 19 offensive rebounds, leaving Trey Burke quite frustrated about losing for the first time at home this season, getting bullied around by a better team, not for the first time.
For Indiana, the ending interviews were once again about Zeller and Oladipo saying the other one should win national player of the year, nothing new. What was new is that they seemed to enjoy the moment and their title for the first time this season, instead of following every win with descriptions of how they have bigger fish to fry this year. For a program that went from heights of final fours and national titles to be almost obliterated by scandals, being back on top of the toughest conference in basketball isn’t just a matter you overlook and go on to the next mission.
Indiana are back, with two of the most talented players in the country, but also as a force to be reckoned with on the national scene, for more than just one season. It begins with winning the bragging rights to the Big Ten, but not a bad chance of ending with a national title.