Indiana 58, Temple 52: Hoosiers step up defense
Temple guard Khalif Wyatt drives on Indiana guard Remy Abell. Wyatt scored 31 points.
DAYTON — Indiana played keep-away well enough not to be kept away from the Sweet Sixteen.
Faced with NCAA Tournament elimination, the Hoosiers turned up the defensive heat on Temple by keeping the ball out of the hands of Owls leading scorer Khalif Wyatt, escaping with a 58-52 win in a third-round game before 12,495 at University of Dayton Arena.
After watching Wyatt score 20 first-half points, the No. 1-seeded Hoosiers harassed the senior guard in particular, and No. 9 Temple in general, limiting Wyatt to 11 points in the second half and keeping the Owls from scoring over the final 3:09.
“In the second half, we kind of limited (Wyatt’s) touches and made it hard for him to even move,” Indiana junior Victor Oladipo said.
The same could not be said for Temple’s defense, which cracked just enough in the final minute to allow Indiana (29-6) to avert disaster. The Owls briefly lost track of Oladipo at the top of the key, and he made them pay, hitting a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to give the Hoosiers a 56-52 lead.Wyatt missed a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining, and Indiana iced it with two Christian Watford free throws.
If Indiana advances to the Final Four and wins its sixth NCAA championship — the Hoosiers won titles in 1940, ’53, ’76, ’81 and ’87 — Oladipo’s three-pointer will be recalled as the clutch play that made it possible.
“I’ve been struggling with my shot my whole life,” he said. “So to step up and make that shot, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Indiana guard Remy Abell never doubted that it would fall.
“Why would I? Victor has been making that shot at 7 o’clock in the morning every day,” Abell said, referring to Oladipo’s habit of practicing his shooting both early and late after practice.
But as much as Oladipo’s “Dayton Dagger” will be remembered, it was his defense on Wyatt that changed the game for Indiana. Wyatt scored 20 of Temple’s first 24 points, hitting 8 of 14 shots, while his teammates were going 4 of 20.
Wyatt, player of the year in the Atlantic 10, figured why should the second half be any different?
Oladipo, that’s why.
“The last six minutes, I was face-guarded full court,” Wyatt said. “They pretty much took me out of the game at the end.”
Until then, Temple (24-10) looked poised for the upset. The Owls led by six with 9:59 left despite their second-leading scorer suffering through the nightmare game of his career — guard Scootie Randall was 0 of 12 from the field, finishing with three free throws — and the team shooting not faring much better. Temple hit just 3 of 24 three-pointers for the game.
But Indiana managed to make the biggest plays when it mattered, an ability the Hoosiers attributed to playing close games in the Big Ten.
“That’s what winners do. Survive,” said Cody Zeller, whose 15 points were second on the team to Oladipo’s 16. Will Sheehey added 10 for the Hoosiers.
Indiana coach Tom Crean, who admitted his postgame behavior has not been sterling this season, approached the Owls after the game to deliver high praise.
“I just told them they were as tough a team as we had seen all year,” Crean said. “We played against great teams and they’re as good as any of them.”