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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Hoosiers look to win Big Ten outright

IU Coach Tom Crean arrived back at the office from attending church with his daughter early Sunday evening, flipped on the TV and watched IU clinch a share of the Big Ten crown for the first time since 2002. There were no crimson-clad Hoosiers on the screen.

His players were downstairs on IU’s court at the time, warming up for practice with shooting drills.

Instead, Crean watched Michigan sew up a home victory against Michigan State and Crean’s mentor, Tom Izzo. It was the Spartans’ fifth conference loss, meaning no team could now fully overtake IU and its 13-3 Big Ten mark.

Crean went downstairs to find his players and shared the news, spreading smiles all around.

Then they got back to work. The job is not done yet.

No. 14 Ohio State comes to town today for a 9 p.m. Senior Night tipoff at Assembly Hall, looking to avenge a home loss to the Hoosiers earlier this year.

“To do what they’ve done and to have a share of this title and to be able to look at an accomplishment is great, but I don’t think there are any of them — I really don’t — that are spending any time thinking about what they’ve done,” Crean said. “It’s really about what they’re doing and about to do.”

A win tonight, in the final home game for the team’s three seniors, would give IU its first outright conference crown since 1993. However, four teams sit two games back at 11-5, each with a chance, slim as it may be, to tie IU atop the conference.

Sophomore forward Cody Zeller is quick to point out that Ohio State numbers in that group.

“They’re playing for a share of the Big Ten title as well, so it would be crazy if you didn’t think they’re going to come out and play as hard as ever,” Zeller said. “It’s going to be a tough physical game and we’ll have to come out and play well.”

Coming days after a road upset to Illinois, IU’s 81-68 win in Columbus, Ohio, helped the team hold onto the No. 1 ranking despite a loss, finally relinquishing it Monday and dropping to No. 2.

The win was highlighted by 20-point efforts from Zeller, junior guard Victor Oladipo and senior guard Christian Watford but only 11 points from other players.

Freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell managed just a single point in that contest, guarded primarily by OSU defensive whiz Aaron Craft.

However, Ferrell enter this rematch with momentum on his side — his career-high 19 points Saturday against Iowa earned him Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week honors — and an idea of what he’s getting into against Craft.

“He’s pretty much just tough all-around, definitely a tough defender,” Ferrell said. “I need to pick my spots closely now, because he’s one of the best guards in the Big Ten.”

Offensively, Ohio State was led, as usual, by Deshaun Thomas, who dropped 26 points on the Hoosiers. Crean noted that since then, Thomas has began posting up more, resulting in more free throws and making him an even more formidable offensive threat.

“There’s really not a matchup that he seems to struggle with,” Crean said. “What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to make it harder and harder for him to catch the ball. That’s the one thing defensively that you’ve got to do.

“He’s one of those people that you could put him in any gym, any arena, anywhere, and he’s probably going to make a bunch of shots.”

No one needs to tell Crean or his team that a share of the conference crown, considering the depths the program was in just a few years ago, is significant from a historical perspective. He knows it, and they know it.

Yet Monday afternoon, there was Zeller, almost downplaying the accomplishment, at least for now.

“It’s only a share of the Big Ten championship, so we were right back to work,” Zeller said. “We want to get this win tomorrow night and get it all for ourselves.”

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