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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Sheehey's game-winner sends IU to Sweet 16

IU v VCU

PORTLAND, Ore. – A tied game, no shot clock and timeouts to spare.
   
The conventional thought is to hold the ball for the last shot. Maybe IU could call a timeout, draw up a play and get an open look.
   
Will Sheehey didn’t want any part of that.
   
After sophomore guard Victor Oladipo drove the lane and couldn’t convert a layup in traffic, the loose ball fell into Sheehey’s hands with 14 seconds to play. Without hesitation, a wide opened Sheehey rose, fired and knocked down his trademark midrange jumper to put IU ahead for good.
   
“Once I caught it, I realized I was open and I don’t think we’re going to get a better shot than that with 12 seconds left,” Sheehey said. “If I would’ve pulled it out, then we would’ve set up some play and maybe go into overtime.”
   
Sheehey’s game-winning jumper gave No. 4 IU (27-8) the 63-61 victory against No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth (29-7) to advance to the program’s first Sweet 16 in 10 years. 
   
“For him to hit that shot, it just proves we’re here to stay,” IU junior forward Derek Elston said. “No matter what happens during a game, we can find a way to overcome it and that’s exactly what happened.”

In the 39 minutes and 46 seconds before Sheehey’s dagger, IU played right into VCU’s hands.

VCU, who came into Saturday night’s showdown ranked No. 1 in the country in steals, forced IU to turn the ball over a season-high 22 times.

“It’s hard to believe we came out with a win,” Elston said. “Nothing but smiles right now.”

But IU didn’t have anything to smile about until the end of the first half. The Hoosiers trailed the Rams 42-33 after a 9-0 VCU run.

As he had done in big moments before, junior forward Christian Watford rose to the occasion. Watford knocked down three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to get the Hoosiers back in the game.

“Christian Watford with the four threes he hit, I think it was three in the first half and then one early in the second half, those were daggers,” Smart said. “We were playing really good defense and we were there, just not there enough. And he stepped up.”

Despite Watford’s efforts, the Hoosiers still trailed as the clock and their postseason aspirations faded fast. Elston said all they needed was that one push to get them over the hump.

“We knew the entire time that once we started getting the fans into it, once we started getting a little momentum, anything could happen,” Elston said. “When you get these guys all hyped up, it’s hard to stop.”

VCU couldn’t stop the Hoosiers from overcoming the two-possession deficit with one minute and 31 seconds to play.

VCU couldn’t stop Oladipo from driving the lane and converting a three-point play to tie the game.

VCU couldn’t stop Sheehey from getting a wide open look that gave IU the lead.

But Sheehey’s quick trigger on the go-ahead jumper meant that VCU would have one more chance to tie or even win. When VCU sophomore guard Rob Brandenberg’s three-point attempt bounced off the rim, a frenzied IU squad stormed the Rose Garden floor.

The realization that IU was heading to the Sweet 16 culminated into one moment that Elston said was anything but expected.

“No one – no one – would’ve thought in the beginning of the season that we would make it to the Sweet 16,” Elston said.
   
But that’s exactly what lies ahead for IU. The Hoosiers will get the highly-anticipated rematch against No. 1 overall seed Kentucky next Friday night at the Georgia Dome.
   
Sheehey’s shot might not be remembered like Watford’s game-winner that dethroned No. 1 Kentucky. IU fans didn’t storm the court and players didn’t stand on the scorer’s table in celebration.
   
But was that still a pretty big shot for Sheehey and the Hoosiers?
  
 “I don’t think there’s a question about that,” Sheehey said.

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