EAST LANSING, Mich.-Victor Oladipo couldn’t have picked a better time to reach 1,000 points for his IU career.
With 47 seconds left and the Hoosiers down one point, the junior guard found was still searching for his 14th point on the night that would push him over the 1,000-point threshold for his IU career.
He found himself right underneath the basket as freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell missed a jumper, and Oladipo gently tipped it in for his 1,001st point and the IU lead.
“No play is ever over until the ball goes through the hoop,” Oladipo said. “I was just crashing just in case, and luckily the ball came right to me, and I tipped it in. That’s all she wrote.”
He scored the final six points for IU to dig the No. 1 Hoosiers out of a late deficit and giving them the win against No. 4 Michigan State 72-68 at the Breslin Center.
Coming into the game, all eyes were centered on Oladipo and sophomore Cody Zeller as they inched close to the 1,000-point milestone for their IU careers.
Seniors guard Jordan Hulls and forward Christian Watford had already surpassed the mark, but until Tuesday, no IU team had ever had four active players with at least 1,000 points on the same roster.
Zeller left little to chance in his run to 1,000, scoring six of IU’s first eight points early on.
His first two buckets came inside over Michigan State’s Derek Nix. Nix made headlines late last week, making comments to local reporters that he felt his team wasn’t getting enough respect and that Zeller and Oladipo were nothing special.
“That’s his opinion,” Oladipo said. “If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels. We just came out and played Indiana basketball tonight, and that’s why we won.”
Oladipo led the Hoosiers with a game-high 19 points, followed by Zeller with 17, letting their games do the talking.
Zeller hit his mark with a long jumper with 15:39 left in the first half, but from there on, he would go dry from the field for the rest of the half. He added just two more free throws to end the first 20 minutes with eight points.
Oladipo picked up right where Zeller left off, hitting IU’s third 3-pointer of the half with 9:48 left in the half to boost IU’s lead to 21-16 after the Hoosiers had fallen behind by three early on.
Michigan State battled back to within three points before four straight Oladipo points started an IU run that gave the Hoosiers their largest lead of the half at 32-24 before going into the locker room ahead 36-30.
But early on in the second half, Zeller wasted little time getting back on the board. He answered a quick layup from Michigan State’s Branden Dawson with a drive from beyond the 3-point line to keep IU up six.
He gave IU it’s largest lead in the second half with a layup with 16:04 left to put IU up 45-38. From there on, though, Michigan State began to catch some traction.
With the exception of a Hulls 3-pointer, the Spartans clamped down on IU’s offense, scoring 11 of the game’s next 14 points to take their first lead since early on the first half at 49-48.
IU fought right back with a run of its own. Ignited by a 3-point play from Zeller and a conventional 3-point play from Hulls, the Hoosiers took back the lead, up 57-51 with 9:49 left.
Michigan State’s Adreian Payne came right back with his own run, scoring seven-straight points, taking back the lead and the momentum as Michigan State led 60-59 with 6:27 left in the game.
Nix added two layups, but freshman Gary Harris split his free throws with 1:38 remaining as Michigan State led 67-63.
A 3-point play from Watford got the Hoosiers within just a single point, but Oladipo proved to be the difference with the game on the line in the waning moments.
The Spartans managed just two Harrris free throws in the final two minutes, as Oladipo scored the final six points for the Hoosiers to seal the four-point victory.
“I was just being aggressive, finishing plays out, doing whatever I needed to do to help my team win, whether it was crashing the glass like I did or getting big stops, getting big rebounds or hitting big free throws,” Oladipo said.
Although Oladipo stole the show to clinch the victory while surpassing the career milestone, he said after the game that without Zeller along side him, he wouldn’t be the attention-grabbing athlete who has caught so much national media attention lately.
“I already know who the player of the year is, and it’s Cody Zeller,” Oladipo said. “Without him, we couldn’t win. Without him, I couldn’t be successful. Nobody would be successful. Indian basketball wouldn’t be back without Cody Zeller.”
Crean added that even in Zeller’s remarkable feat of 1,000 points in less than two full seasons, what really impresses his coach is the way he makes players like Oladipo look even better.
“Cody is so much more than any big man or any type of scorer,” Crean said. “He facilitates so much, and he creates so much attention from the defense, and he’s so willing to find his teammates.
“If he was hung up on scoring, he might have gone over 1,000 a while back, but because he’s hung up on winning, that just comes naturally.”