No. 18/20 Hoosiers Top Purdue, 85-74
March 4, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Indiana's five seniors celebrated a fitting end to their home careers Sunday.
They traded high-fives, hugs and dribbled out the closing seconds together.
Christian Watford scored 19 points and Will Sheehey added 16, helping No. 18 Indiana hold off hard-charging Purdue 85-74 to give the Hoosiers' seniors their first home victory over their biggest rival.
It doesn't get better than that in Bloomington.
"We've been through a lot, and these four guys have been through more than anyone will ever know," former walk-on guard Daniel Moore told the crowd afterward. "A lot more downs than ups, but that makes what we've done even more sweet."
This senior class achieved more than just about anybody could have imagined when it entered Assembly Hall as the start to a major rebuilding project.
After going 6-25 as freshmen and enduring three straight losing seasons, the Hoosiers (24-7, 11-7 Big Ten) produced one of their most memorable regular seasons in years.
Indiana became the first conference school in six decades to upset a No. 1 and No. 2 team in one season. The Hoosiers became the first team in school history to knock off three top-5 teams during the regular season, and the latest victory puts Indiana within two wins of its highest victory total since 1992-93.
It is Indiana's first season sweep of Purdue since 2005-06, and the Hoosiers aren't finished yet.
"These fellow seniors, we've been through just about everything you can imagine and there's one thing we haven't done, so we're just going to keep working," said Matt Roth, referring to what is expected to be the school's first NCAA tournament bid in four years.
Success didn't come easily, and the Boilermakers sure weren't going to help them. Purdue (20-11, 10-8) was trying to win its third straight in Bloomington for the first time since 1968-71.
But the Hoosiers weren't going to let anything derail Sunday's celebration.
They started fast, answered every Purdue challenge and for the second time in less than a week didn't even allow the opponent to get within a single possession of tying the score after the opening minutes. It was impressive.
"They've played very well twice against us, and I think they're getting back to being one of the top-tier programs in the Big Ten," Purdue forward Robbie Hummel said after scoring 16 points. "I know they've had some down years, but they have some good players."
Indiana beat Purdue with crisp, precise passes and a clear desire to send these seniors, who started their home careers with a win over Northwestern State, out the right way.
Everybody had a hand in it.
Freshman center Cody Zeller had 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Junior guard Jordan Hulls had 10 points and five assists. Victor Oladipo finished with nine points and eight rebounds, and the five seniors combined for 18 points, including nine from Roth and seven from Verdell Jones.
For the first 30 minutes, it looked as though it would be easy.
The Hoosiers broke out to a 15-6 lead, extended the margin to 28-13 midway through the first half after a 10-0 run and led 49-34 at halftime against a defense that was allowing just 64.8 points per game.
Indiana coach Tom Crean wasn't surprised.
"Our guys had a great spirit, they had a great mindset, they carried the preparations and the week right into today," he said. "Even when Purdue made a run, our guys continued to really, really play at a very high level."
It didn't look as though things would change much when Indiana extended the lead to 58-40 on Zeller's breakaway dunk with 13:58 to go.
That's when the Boilermakers finally rallied. Hummel and Lewis Jackson, who had 17 points, spurred an 8-1 run that got Purdue within 59-48 with 11:01 to go. After scoring eight straight points, Purdue was within 65-58 with 6 minutes left.
But Indiana got two free throws from Watford, another from Zeller and a 3 from Sheehey to rebuild a 71-58 cushion with 3:58 to play. And after Purdue got within 77-71 with 1:18 to go, the Hoosiers closed it out by making enough free throws to let the five seniors dribble out the final 22.4 seconds and draw the loudest ovation of the day.
"They have all evolved into doing what it takes to be successful, what the team needs to be done," Crean said. "They've changed for the better in truly understanding what it takes to make teams successful and that's why they'll all be successful in whatever they do."
Indiana also honored those who died in the recent swarm of tornadoes in southern Indiana with a moment of silence before the national anthem.
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