The Washington Times-Herald

The "Z" Watch

January 28, 2013

Harris falls short in return to Indiana

BLOOMINGTON — Gary Harris got a chance to show his home-state team what it missed out on Sunday.

He made five 3-pointers, defended hard and did enough little things to put Michigan State in position to win, thought this one may go down as one that got away.

Victor Oladipo finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and six steals, leading No. 7 Indiana past the 13th-ranked Spartans 75-70 and into the Big Ten lead.

"I knocked down some shots at the beginning of the second half and then I just started feeling it," said Harris, the reigning Mr. Basketball winner in Indiana. "My teammates were finding me in open spots and I was able to knock down some shots."

It was a rough afternoon for Harris.

Hoosiers fans, still disappointed with his college choice, booed him all day. And while he was 5 of 10 on 3-pointers, it was the one that didn't go down -- with Michigan State trailing 74-70 and 1:10 to play that really hurt.

Harris wound up scoring 21 points. Adreian Payne added 18 points, making three 3s to double his season total. Branden Dawson, also an Indiana native, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

But in a game in which Michigan State committed 19 turnovers, allowed Indiana to shoot 50.9 percent from the field and essentially fought to a draw in rebounds, it just wasn't enough to extend their six-game winning streak. Instead, wearing special green-and-gold uniforms for the first time, they fell out of the Big Ten lead.

"Gary Harris was phenomenal, but we just couldn't make the big play down the stretch," coach Tom Izzo said. "I thought we did a pretty good job on (Cody) Zeller, but other guys hurt us and that's the mark of a good team.

Most notably, Oladipo who dominated the game all day.

Just seconds into the game, he poked the ball away from Dawson, came up with the loose ball and drove in for a dunk.

Indiana (18-2, 6-1 Big Ten) has won three straight since a Jan. 25 loss to Wisconsin. It has won back-to-back games over the Spartans after ending a six-game losing streak in the series. The Hoosiers picked up their ninth win in Assembly Hall over a Top 25 foe during the past 24 months, and their latest victory helped break up a three-way logjam atop the Big Ten. Indiana was awaiting the result of the Michigan-Illinois game to see if it would share the conference lead with the Wolverines or have it all to themselves.

How much did this win mean to coach Tom Crean?

After shaking hands with Izzo, his old friend and former boss, Crean walked to the corner in the south end of Assembly Hall, raised both arms and thanked the students for their constant noise. A few minutes later, he was thanking others.

"He (Oladipo) was a tremendous difference from the start of the game. He had a knowledge base that he put into his game as to how he was going to defend," Crean said. "If you're not cerebral like that and at the same time, quick, it's hard to defend like that. But he's been good. We knew he was going to play well on the offensive end and to take away things on the defensive end, too. And we don't win this game without Will Sheehey, we really don't."

The impact of Oladipo was evident in the box score and beyond.

He was 8 of 12 from the field and 4 of 6 from the line with more offensive rebounds (four) than defensive. Crean also credited him with 15 first-half deflections, something Crean said he's never seen before. And when Oladipo wasn't making plays, there were plenty of others willing to help.

Cody Zeller made only two baskets and finished with nine points but scored on a layup with 1:38 to go to make it a two-possession game. He also took a charge with 14.3 seconds left that essentially sealed the win.

Christian Watford finished with 12 points and six rebounds, Yogi Ferrrell had 11 points and a key 3-pointer just before halftime and Jordan Hulls had 10 points and four assists. Most of it was the result of Oladipo and the threat he posed on every possession.

"Oladipo just plays so hard," Izzo said. "He's the Ray Lewis of college basketball."

It was every bit as entertaining as advertised, too.

After Michigan State took a 31-30 lead late in the first half, Indiana answered with a 3 from Sheehey and another 3 from Hulls. Ferrell's 3 to close the half gave Indiana 44-38 lead.

Oladipo's two free throws with 16:28 to go extended the lead to 50-43, but when it looked like the Hoosiers might pull away, Harris dashed those hopes by making back-to-back 3s over the next 50 seconds to get the Spartans within 50-49.

Indiana never led by more than six the rest of the way, but with Oladipo leading the defense, Michigan State never managed to tie the score or take the lead, either.

The Hoosiers finally sealed it in the final 98 seconds when Zeller made the layup and took the charge, and Hulls made 1 of 2 free throws, and Oladipo walked away wondering what more he could have done.

"There are still things I need to improve on, even today," he said. "So I have to keep getting better."

 

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