No. 12 Indiana Tops Michigan, 73-71
Jan. 5, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)-- Christian Watford started fast and finished strong for Indiana.
The junior scored 25 points and connected on 1 of 2 free throws with 2.9 seconds left Thursday night, leading the 12th-ranked Hoosiers to a 73-71 victory over No. 16 Michigan.
"I thought the way Christian Watford played tonight was phenomenal," said head coach Tom Crean. "We knew were playing a really good team. Their seniors played like seniors. Their stars played like stars. They played tough, we played tough and we could never get separation the way that we needed to and some of that was us, some of that was them, but the bottom line is this team gritted it out again."
Indiana (14-1, 2-1 Big Ten) is 11-0 at Assembly Hall this season and has three wins over ranked opponents--its highest total in a season since beating four in 2005-06.
And while the Hoosiers never even trailed Thursday, it certainly was treacherous.
The Wolverines (12-3, 2-1) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final 7 1/2 minutes and came within a last-second heave of beating the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall for only the second time since 1996.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 19 points for Michigan and Jordan Morgan added 12.
Indiana led 65-55 after sophomore Victor Oladipo drove in for a dunk, but the Wolverines stormed back.
Trey Burke hit a 3, scored on a breakaway layup and then made another layup to cut the lead to 68-65 with 4:03 to play. Hardaway made 1 of 2 free throws and converted a turnover into a dunk to tie the score at 68--only the second tie all game.
But Indiana senior Verdell Jones broke the tie with two free throws with 2:50 left, then hit a 15-footer with 23.9 seconds to go, making it 72-68.
"It was huge," Crean said. "It was 'make a play' and I knew I had a timeout and I'm glad I didn't call it. He made a senior shot."
Michigan got a 3 from Stu Douglass with 2.9 seconds left, cutting the lead to 72-71, and even had a chance to win it after Watford made his second free throw.
Zack Novak's heave from just beyond midcourt, however, bounced high off the backboard after the buzzer sounded.
It didn't look like it would be this tough for Indiana after it built a 17-6 lead just 8 minutes into the game.
Michigan's shooters finally warmed up late in the first half, closing to 35-30 and then carried the momentum into the second half.
Novak opened the second half with a 3 from the corner to get the Wolverines within 39-35, and when Morgan posted up for an easy layup with 16:14 left to close the gap to 44-43. Michigan finally tied the score for the first time with 14:54 to go.
Freshman Cody Zeller had 18 points for the Hoosiers, and Jones finished with eight.
"I am really, really proud of our team," Crean said. "They have won 14 games 14 different ways with a lot of room for improvement and I'm excited about them."
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