Feb. 28, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Draymond Green tried to clinch the Big Ten title by himself Tuesday night.
He needed more help.
Cody Zeller scored 18 points, Victor Oladipo had 13 and Christian Watford finished with 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, leading No. 18 Indiana past No. 5 Michigan State 70-55, the Hoosiers' third win this season over a top five team.
"We just didn't defend well and that's something that has been a mark of this team all year, and that's why we've had so much success," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "And that's the reason we didn't have success tonight because we didn't do it."
Green scored 29 points, including 16 straight during one stretch of about 12 minutes, and grabbed eight rebounds.
But none of his teammates scored more than eight points, and the lack of help doomed Michigan State's hopes of clinching a second outright Big Ten title in four seasons.
Instead, Michigan State (24-6, 13-4) lost for the first time in eight games, and the Spartans' school-record six-game winning streak over the Hoosiers ended.
Green and Austin Thornton can still become the first players in school history to win two unshared Big Ten crowns if the Spartans can beat No. 10 Ohio STATE on Sunday.
And the worst part, for Izzo, was watching his team get beat at its own game.
Indiana (23-7, 10-7) was better on the glass, better on defense and just plain tougher when it mattered most.
"We didn't defend them, we didn't rebound, we didn't execute," Izzo said after losing for the first time in seven games to Tom Crean, his former assistant. "We missed some good shots, I have no problem with that. ... I think Indiana deserves a lot of credit for putting us in that position. They did a great job of moving the ball and just driving at us, and we didn't respond very well."
Instead, Indiana added another milestone victory to a growing list of accomplishments.
The Hoosiers had already become the first Big Ten school to upset the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same season since 1952-53.
They had already given Crean his first 20-win season since leaving Marquette four years ago.
Last week, Indiana completed its first undefeated nonconference season since 1989-90.
And now they are the first Indiana team to beat three top five teams in the regular season since they started keeping records in 1948-49.
Indiana and Kansas are the only schools to beat three top five teams this season.
The Jayhawks beat No. 2 Ohio STATE in December, No. 3 Baylor in January and No. 3 Missouri on Saturday. Indiana beat No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio STATE in December and added Michigan State to the list.
But the Hoosiers insists there's still a lot of work to do.
"When we beat top teams like that we're nasty, we're scrappy, we're fighting," said senior Verdell Jones, who had 12 points. "But we haven't accomplished anything yet."
Indiana's steady progression has put it in line to make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008. First, though, the Hoosiers must still play archrival Purdue on Sunday and the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis before they can worry about ending the postseason drought.
They sure played like they got the message Tuesday, never giving the Spartans much hope.
From the early moments, Indiana continually drove to the basket, drew fouls and made free throws, taking advantage with an early 12-2 run that made it 18-8.
After calling time out, Izzo, who had been shaking his head in disbelief, finally saw the Spartans warm up. Austin Thornton finished a fastbreak with a layup, then popped outside and hit a 3-pointer to make it 18-13.
But every time Michigan State got close, Indiana answered.
Green's first 3 got the Spartans within 24-20.
Watford answered with a 3 to start 12-5 run that allowed Indiana to take a 41-27 halftime lead. It was the most points Michigan State surrendered in a first half all season.
"They played well, they deserved to win," Izzo said.
Michigan State got close again early in the second half when Green scored six points in a 10-0 run to make it 43-37 with 15:47 left.
But Indiana scored straight points and four more in a row after Green hit another 3 to make it 51-40. Michigan State never got closer than six points again.
"Our team responded," Crean said. "As we kept saying today, it's not hit or be hit, it's hit or be out. This is a game where you have to be in the mix because they set the standard for our league and the country in terms of toughness. Our guys matched it and I'm very, very proud of them."