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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Sheehey sets record, career-high score

IUBB v. Purdue

In the absence of junior guard Victor Oladipo, it was the record-setting play of his replacement that paced IU to a season sweep of archrival Purdue.

Junior forward Will Sheehey set a career-high with 22 points and a new school mark for consecutive field goals with 9-for-9 shooting as the Hoosiers rolled to a 83-55 win against the Boilermakers Saturday afternoon in Assembly Hall.

“When you play against them, and coach against them, you’ve got to have a strategy for everything, you’ve got to have that great mindset,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “Our guys did that.”

As Oladipo limped toward the locker room in the final minute of the first half with what would be diagnosed as a sprained ankle, the game still hung very much in limbo. Purdue had sliced a 19-point deficit down as low as 10 and IU, like its star junior guard, seemed to be limping into the break with a 41-29 lead.

When the team emerged from halftime, Oladipo was not with his teammates, and IU began the half essentially trading baskets with Purdue.

Oladipo reentered the arena to roars of cheering several minutes into the half, riding the stationary bike and cheering on his teammates. The burgeoning player of the year candidate would never get back in the game.

Crean said Oladipo wanted to continue to play, but the medical staff would not clear him. Crean stopped short of saying whether he expected Oladipo to play on Tuesday in East Lansing, Mich. when the Big Ten outright lead will be at stake.

However, Oladipo was seen after the game laughing with teammates’ friends and families. He even chased small children, with no obvious difficulty.

No one seemed more energized by Oladipo’s return than the man who replaced him. On both short layups and long 3-pointers, Sheehey found himself open on possession after possession and capitalized each time on his way to 16 second-half points.

Not worried that Oladipo’s injury would be serious, Sheehey said he was excited for a heavy workload in the second half.

“I just try to stay aggressive regardless of what the situation is,” Sheehey said. “That’s just the way I am as a player. Some guys are different. The more minutes I get, the more opportunities I get and the more I’m going to try and stay aggressive.”

Sheehey has long preached the virtue of defense breeding offense in IU’s system, and on Saturday, both he and his coach credited that quality as the impetus for Sheehey’s career day. Crean said Sheehey is so well-versed in the game plan that he could quite easily run the team’s pregame walkthroughs himself.

“He epitomizes student of the game right now, while the game is going on,” Crean said. “Then when he gets in there, he just plays. He’s really maturing because of that. He was all over the place. Because he can guard so well, because he can guard so many people and because he’s so active on defense, activity just carries to offense.”

Sheehey was relatively quiet in the first half, with six points. Instead, it was another Hoosier forward who got the rout started.

Senior forward Christian Watford, who has made hot starts a habit this Big Ten season, scored IU’s first eight points Saturday, staking a quick 8-2 lead for the Hoosiers. A subsequent 3-pointer by Purdue forward D.J. Byrd drew the Boilermakers as close as they would come in the game at 8-5.

“When I get a great start, I end up playing better the entire game, but my teammates did a great job of finding me, and I got going early,” Watford said.

After Oladipo added a free throw, senior guard Jordan Hulls hit the first of three 3-pointers that helped quickly and consistently inflate the IU lead.

IU had 17 points off turnovers at the half, on its way to 25 for the game, as multiple players were on the finishing end of IU fast breaks and Purdue was forced to play at IU’s pace.

In one instance, sophomore forward Cody Zeller was so far past anyone else after receiving a Hulls pass that no player from either team bothered to chase him. He finished with a dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.

The IU lead reached as high as 19 points — 33-14 with 7:06 left in the first half — before Purdue scored seven consecutive points on its way to a 13-4 run soon before Oladipo’s injury.

As Zeller joined Sheehey on the scoring spree, the game was getting out of hand. Purdue Coach Matt Painter, with a dejected expression on his face, knew it. He did not rise from his seat for much of the second half.

IU coaches knew it, too. Oladipo, who appeared healthy on the sideline as he vigorously cheered on his teammates, was never needed. Sheehey and the starters left the game with several minutes still to play.

Despite his record numbers, Sheehey stopped short of superlatives after the game.

“Everyone thinks that since you had a career high in points that means it was your best game ever played, and I don’t think that’s the case,” Sheehey said. “Really, it’s just a collective win and anytime you can beat your rival, it’s nice.”

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