Big Ten men's basketball: Wolverines stumble, fall in stretch run
As Michigan falters, Zeller lifts Indiana to outright title
Tim Hardaway Jr. walks off the court as Indiana players celebrate a victory in the final seconds and a Big Ten title.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As if Ohio State fans needed another reason to detest Michigan, the Wolverines managed in shocking fashion to blow a game that cost the Buckeyes a share of a Big Ten championship, and themselves a share, as well.
Michigan had a five-point lead with 52 seconds left in front of a sellout home crowd at the Crisler Center, where it was 17-0 this season. But the Wolverines allowed Indiana to pull a Harry Houdini routine and escape with a 72-71 victory.
The comeback victory gave the No. 2 Hoosiers (26-5) their first outright Big Ten title since 1993, with a 14-4 league record, and it meant OSU and Michigan State had to settle for a second-place tie, one game back at 13-5. Four teams, including Michigan, would have shared the championship had Indiana lost.
“No doubt, that’s a big deal,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said of winning the title outright. His first Hoosiers team went 6-25 overall and 1-17 in the Big Ten in 2008-09.
The No. 7 Wolverines (25-6, 12-6) could not avenge an 81-73 loss at Indiana on Feb. 2 because they missed 3 of 4 free throws, including the front end of two 1-and-1s, in the last minute of the regular-season finale.
Indiana entered the game already possessing a share of its first league championship in 11 years and the No. 1 seed in this week’s Big Ten tournament, but the Hoosiers were coming off a 67-58 home loss to OSU five days earlier on their Senior Night.
After Glenn Robinson III made a free throw to put Michigan ahead 71-66 with 52 seconds left, the Hoosiers appeared to be headed to a second straight defeat for the first time this season, and their third loss in four games.
“We realized we were going to have to come together and execute at the end,” Indiana guard Victor Oladipo said. “We did a great job of it, and the big fella made plays.”
He was referring to Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller, who scored the game’s last six points, the final two on an inside basket with 13 seconds remaining that gave him 25 points to go with 10 rebounds.
After Zeller’s basket, Michigan point guard Trey Burke, a Columbus native and Big Ten player of the year candidate, missed a driving layup at the other end, which Zeller contested. Jordan Morgan’s rebound tip bounced on, and then slowly rolled off, the rim.
“They just got the last laugh,” Burke said. “The ball bounced their way. I thought (my) layup was going to go for sure.”
Burke, an 81 percent free-throw shooter, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 27.7 seconds left, setting up Zeller’s game-winner in an arena where the Wolverines had won 32 of 33 games the past two seasons.
Although Burke made 5 of 8 three-point attempts, he needed 20 shots overall to score 20 points while often being guarded by Oladipo, another top contender for the league’s player of the year. The honor will be announced tonight on the Big Ten Network.
Oladipo helped his candidacy by grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds to go along with 14 points, three assists, a blocked shot and steal, and then touting for his teammate after the victory.
“Cody Zeller should be player of the year,” Oladipo said.
Indiana had been outrebounded in each of its previous three games, two of them defeats. But the Hoosiers enjoyed a 53-30 advantage over Michigan on the glass.. They grabbed 24 offensive rebounds, led by Oladipo’s seven. Four others had at least two.
The hard work on the glass was indicative of the game’s fierce ebb and flow, which left some Indiana players — and their coach — in tears at game’s end.
“I really didn’t want to get emotional,” Crean said, “but I couldn’t help it.”