ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The ball skipped from the left to the right of the rim when Michigan’s Jordan Morgan tried to send Trey Burke’s missed layup back into the net.
The ball bounced four more times before it slowly rolled to the side of the rim, paused long enough for instant replay to clearly display the words The Rock under Michigan’s block blue M.
Then the rock fell away from the basket, and No. 2 Indiana walked away with a 72-71 victory over No. 7 Michigan and the Hoosiers’ first outright Big Ten title since 1993.
I was just sitting there looking at it for the longest, just hoping it didn’t go in, said Indiana forward Christian Watford, who dived for the ball as it came off the rim and tipped it back to forward Cody Zeller before time ran out on the final regular-season game for both teams.
It was apt that the ball finished in Zeller’s hands as the sophomore came up with the plays IU needed in the final minute to win a fifth game against a top-10 team this season.
The Hoosiers (26-5, 14-4) trailed the Wolverines (25-6, 12-6) 71-66 with 52 seconds to play in front of 12,693 fans in the Crisler Center, and IU had turned the ball over on its two previous possessions.
But Zeller scored on a layup with 39.6 seconds left then after Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. missed his first shot on a one-and-one, Zeller drew a foul and sank two free throws to cut Michigan’s lead to 71-70 with 29.3 seconds to play.
After Burke missed the front end of a one-and-one, Zeller got inside against for a layup and the one-point lead with 13.8 seconds left, and he altered Burke’s shot at the other end to help seal the win.
Zeller finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds for his 14th career double-double.
That is one of the best players that’s ever going to come through Indiana, no matter what, IU coach Tom Crean said of Zeller. No matter how long we have him, he’s one of the best players who is ever going to come through here.
Victor Oladipo recorded his second career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, and Will Sheehey added 10 points for the Hoosiers, who had a 53-30 rebounding edge and finished with 24 offensive rebounds.
It is definitely one of the keys for us to crash the offensive glass, Zeller said.
Indiana came into Sunday’s game already owning a share of the Big Ten title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which begins Thursday in Chicago. The Hoosiers will play the winner of the Illinois-Minnesota game in the quarterfinals Friday.
But the Hoosiers also wanted to erase the feeling of missing out on winning the outright title on their home floor with Tuesday’s loss to No. 14 Ohio State.
That was a reason why I came here, to be known as one of the greats, to be known as a reason why Indiana basketball came back, Oladipo said of winning the outright title. To actually be a part of that, it’s an amazing feeling.
Burke led Michigan with 20 points on 7-of-20 shooting, and Glenn Robinson III had 13 points. Nik Stauskas scored 12, and Hardaway had 11.
IU started the game great, sprinting out to a 10-3 lead in the first four minutes, but Michigan responded with a 12-0 run for a 15-10 lead with 11:40 left in the first half and pushed it to 27-16 with five minutes left in the half.
Indiana was able to cut its deficit to 33-30 at halftime, and the teams – which swapped the lead 14 times – started exchanging the lead at a quick pace at the midway point of the second half.
But the Hoosiers never panicked when they trailed or when the game got tight.
Nobody felt like we weren’t going to come down and make plays, Crean said. They stayed committed to what was working, and they knew that No. 40 (Zeller) was impossible to guard tonight.