The Washington Times-Herald

The "Z" Watch

March 11, 2013

IU, Zeller close out Michigan for outright Big Ten title

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Cody Zeller refused to bask in the glory of an outright Big Ten title the Indiana Hoosiers probably wouldn't have won without him.

"It was a team win," Zeller said.

Technically, that's true.

Zeller didn't single-handedly beat No. 7 Michigan on Sunday, it just seemed that way for stretches of the game - and in particular the final minute of the Hoosiers' 72-71 victory.

He made two shots - including a go-ahead layup with 13 seconds left - and a pair of free throws on one end of the court and altered Trey Burke's shot at the other basket in the last 38 seconds of the game.

The 7-foot, sophomore center stole the show after being relatively overlooked in the buildup to a game that featured Burke and the Hoosiers' Victor Oladipo, who are both Big Ten and national player of the year candidates.

"That is one of the best players that is ever going to come through Indiana," Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said.

In Indiana's regular-season finale, he played to his potential.

Zeller had a season-high 25 points, one short of his career high, 10 rebounds, two assists, a block and a victory-sealing defensive play in the lane against Burke that didn't show up in the box score.

"I've been saying all year long, he should be the player of the year," Oladipo said after scoring 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting and grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds. "If you don't give it to him, something's wrong with y'all."

After falling out of bounds on the final sequence, Zeller stood up quickly and got in bounds, giving teammate Christian Watford someone to throw the ball to as he saved it from going out of bounds.

"We've been working on that all year - closing out games," Zeller said.

The Hoosiers (26-5, 14-4 Big Ten) trailed by five in the final minute but took advantage when the Wolverines (25-6, 12-6) were unable to close it out at the foul line or in the lane, costing themselves a piece of the Big Ten title.

Jordan Morgan had a fairly easy tip-in attempt of Burke's miss that could have won it for Michigan, but the ball rolled tantalizingly around the rim and off.

"It just hung there," Burke said.

Watford got to the rebound - Indiana had 23 more boards than Michigan -and threw it back in bounds to Zeller.

"Christian made a great play at the end that people might not realize, saving the ball to Cody," Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls said.

A couple of Michigan's rivals surely wish the Wolverines had won.

Ohio State, which beat Illinois on Sunday, needed an Indiana loss to earn a share of the conference championship. Michigan State was in the same position before defeating Northwestern later in the day.

"Indiana has been the best team all year," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said Sunday night. "They probably deserved to win the Big Ten championship."

The Hoosiers had already clinched a share of the title, for the first time since 2002, but needed another victory to finish alone atop the conference for the first time since 1993.

"In retrospect, that'll be good and that'll sink in," Crean said.

Indiana's 26th victory, and the fact that it withstood test after test in the highly competitive Big Ten, might have earned the Hoosiers a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They will be the top-seeded team at this week's Big Ten tournament in Chicago.

"We're not done yet," Hulls said.

The Wolverines blew a chance to win a share of the Big Ten title for a second straight year for the first time since the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

"This really hurts," Burke acknowledged. "This was for a championship."

Morgan made a tiebreaking putback with 1:35 left, teammate Tim Hardaway followed with a layup on the Wolverines' next possession and Glen Robinson III made the first of two free throws with 52 seconds to go to give the Wolverines a 71-66 lead.

After Zeller made a shot on the ensuing possession, Hardaway missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Zeller then connected on two free throws and Burke couldn't convert at the line, missing the front end of another haunting 1-and-1.

"This game wasn't blown on the free throw line," Michigan coach John Beilein insisted. "Those two are our leaders, and they've won a lot of games for us. We're never going to put this on them."

Michigan led by as many as 11 points - matching the biggest lead any team has had against the Hoosiers - and looked as though it was going to be on the winning end of a closely contested game until it simply could not make key free throws or stop Zeller.

"Cody has a tremendous temperament and tenacity to him," Crean said.

1
Text Only
The "Z" Watch
  • Bobcats coach Clifford needs heart procedure

    November 8, 2013

  • Bobcats beat Cavs in first Zeller vs. Zeller matchup

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Kemba Walker admits there's always a little extra incentive when he goes up against Kyrie Irving.

    November 2, 2013

  • Bobcats thrilled with rookie Cody Zeller's play

    Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said he needs rookie Cody Zeller to play well in order for his team to improve.
    At the same time Clifford wants the 7-footer to ease into his pro career and not feel the weight of expectations of a player picked fourth overall in last summer's NBA draft out of Indiana.

    October 7, 2013

  • Zeller-less Indiana holds annual Hoosier Hysteria

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Amid all the smoke and music, Indiana put aside the excitement of a new basketball season to look back one more time at a year of achievement.

    October 5, 2013

  • Bobcats coach Clifford says rebounding a concern

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said despite adding two big men to the roster this offseason, rebounding remains his biggest concern as the team prepares to open training camp Tuesday in Asheville, N.C.

    September 30, 2013

  • Bobcats feel they're headed in right direction

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Rod Higgins believes the Charlotte Bobcats are a team on the rise.

    September 25, 2013

  • Bobcats' Zeller says he can be perimeter threat

    Cody Zeller has confidence he can be a perimeter threat as well as a low-post presence for the Charlotte Bobcats.

    But he might need a quick refresher course on his jump shot first.

    June 28, 2013

  • Wolves work out ex-Indiana center Cody Zeller

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are evaluating former Indiana center Cody Zeller, among their prospects for the NBA draft.
    Zeller worked out for Wolves officials Wednesday, one of several big men who showed their skills on the team's practice court.

    June 13, 2013

  • Zeller headshot.jpg Tyler Zeller among 27 invited to USA Basketball summer minicamp

    San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, enjoying a strong NBA Finals, and Washington's Tyler Zeller are two of 27 young players scheduled to attend USA Basketball's minicamp in July.

    June 12, 2013 1 Photo

  • IU still working towards sixth banner

    Monday night in Atlanta, Louisville won the school’s first National Championship since the year I was born - 1986. This accomplishment is significant to Indiana basketball fans, because the last two times the Cardinals cut down the nets (1980, 1986), the Hoosiers did it the following year. The stat, of course means nothing, other than both schools had strong programs in the 1980s.

    April 11, 2013

Featured Ads
AP Video
Facebook
Clicker Ticker
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide