EAST LANSING, Mich. – Victor Oladipo didn’t let any pain he may or may not have felt slow him down Tuesday night, especially in the final minute of No. 1 Indiana’s 72-68 victory over No. 4 Michigan State in the Breslin Center.
Oladipo scored the Hoosiers’ final six points on a putback, breakaway dunk and two free throws just three days after spraining his left ankle in a win over Purdue on Saturday.
Just cutting with a purpose and never giving up on plays, Oladipo said of how he finished strong. My team just did a great job today. I was feeding off of them.
Oladipo finished with a team-high 19 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
Oladipo joined Cody Zeller, who scored 17 Tuesday, in reaching 1,000 points for his career. Oladipo broke 1,000 on the putback with 43 seconds to play that gave IU the lead for good at 68-67.
Victor Oladipo wasn’t close to 100 percent tonight, he wasn’t close, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said. There is no doubt that his foot hurt, he may tell you differently, but I’ve been around him a long time. I know when he’s right, and I know when he’s not right. But I know that his mind was right, and that was the biggest thing.
The victory gave IU (24-3, 12-2) sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with four games left in the season. The Hoosiers also own essentially a two-game lead on the Spartans (22-5, 11-3) for the top seed in the conference tournament, and they may have locked down a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament with their fourth win over a top-10 team this season.
Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls each scored 12 for Indiana, which also won a top-four showdown this season by defeating then-No. 1 Michigan 81-73 on Feb. 2.
I think last year helped us a lot, because we played in tough road environments and we’ve been to the Sweet 16, we’ve kind of been through it before, Zeller said of getting IU’s second win at the Breslin Center in 20 trips. We’ve got a mature group that knows how to win down the stretch.
The Hoosiers’ knowledge of how to win late was pushed to its limits by the Spartans.
A 48-42 IU lead just more than five minutes into the second half disappeared under a 7-0 Michigan State run that gave the Spartans a 49-48 lead with 13:21 to play. Zeller stopped that push with a three-point play, and the Hoosiers rebuilt their lead to 57-51 with 9:49 to play.
But Michigan State went on a 9-2 run to take a 60-59 lead with 6:25 to play. The teams then traded the lead three times until Derrick Nix scored on back-to-back possessions to give Michigan State at 66-63 lead with 2:35 to play. Watford got IU back to within a point, 67-66, when he completed a three-point play with 1:25 to play.
Then Oladipo took over for Indiana, which survived having the clock not properly start with 21.8 seconds to play and Michigan State’s Gary Harris going to the free-throw line for three shots with 3.7 seconds to play when IU’s Will Sheehey was called for a foul.
Harris, who scored 19, made only 1 of 3 free throws, and Oladipo grabbed the rebound on Harris’ intentional miss on the third shot and sank his free throws at the other end.
For me, the MVP of this league, Oladipo, made every play when he needed to, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.