Indiana slips by Temple, advances to Sweet 16
Victor Oladipo hit a key 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining and the top-seeded Hoosiers, their season moments from ending in disappointment, shut down Owls star Khalif Wyatt in the final three minutes to hold off Temple 58-52 on Sunday in the East Regional.
The Hoosiers (29-6) trailed by four with 2:56 left, but closed with a 10-0 run and advanced to the round of 16 for the second straight year.
Indiana will play No. 4 seed Syracuse in the regional semifinals on Thursday in Washington, a rematch of the classic 1987 title game won by the Hoosiers.
Wyatt scored 31 points to lead the Owls (24-10), who gave one of the Big Ten's big boys all they could handle before collapsing when it mattered most.
"Temple, like I said to our players in the huddle, they're as tough a team physically and mentally as we faced all year, and we faced the best all year in the Big Ten," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "They take a backseat to nobody. This was a hard-earned victory that can only make us better."
Oladipo, who spent the afternoon doing all he could to slow down Wyatt, scored 16 and Cody Zeller added 15 for the Hoosiers, lucky to leave Dayton with their national title hopes intact.
After Oladipo's long 3 put the Hoosiers up 56-52, Indiana had to buckle down on Wyatt, the Atlantic 10's Player of the Year.
Wyatt, though, was way off with a 3-pointer from the right wing with six seconds left and Indiana's Christian Watford grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
With his hands on his hips, Wyatt walked dejectedly up the floor as Dayton Arena rocked and the senior pounded his chest.
The Hoosiers' heartbeats finally slowed. On Saturday, Gonzaga became the first top seed to be knocked off and, until Wyatt's miss, Indiana was in danger of zigging with the Zags.
Watford made his two free throws and the red-and-white-clad Indiana faithful relaxed and celebrated much the way Big Ten brethren Ohio State did earlier when Aaron Craft's 3-pointer in the final second beat Iowa State and pushed the Buckeyes ahead in the West Regional.
Wyatt nearly turned this tournament into his national coming-out party. Despite playing with an injured left thumb, Wyatt, who scored 31 in the opener against North Carolina State, gave the Hoosiers fits. With the score tied at 52-all, he broke free from Oladipo, but missed a 3-pointer and Indiana got the rebound.
Oladipo was fouled, and during a stop in action, Wyatt stared at the ball at his feet and yelled in frustration.
Oladipo split a pair of free throws, but he was able to keep the ball from Wyatt on Temple's next trip, which ended when Rhalir Hollis-Jefferson shot an air ball.
Then, with Indiana needing a score to open some breathing room, Oladipo hit a shot Hoosier fans will add to the pantheon of big ones by IU players.
Indiana senior Jordan Hulls, who has played in more games for the Hoosiers than any other player, returned in the second half with a protective wrap on an injured right shoulder. He knocked down a 3 with 8:49 left to pull the Hoosiers within 41-40 and give Indiana's fans something to do other than complain about the officiating.
Will Sheehey's 3-pointer tied it 43-all, but Wyatt drained one 13 seconds later, then motioned with his hands and told Temple's fans to "calm down."
Scoring from inside and out, and looking into the crowd after every made shot, Wyatt had 20 points in the first half. And although he missed a 3-pointer in the final second of the first half, the senior clapped his hands and let out a high-pitched "whoooop" as he headed to the locker room with the Owls leading 29-26.
The three-point deficit at the break matched Indiana's largest this season, and the Hoosiers hardly looked like themselves for much of the opening 20 minutes.
Wyatt had a lot to do with that.
He fearlessly went at Oladipo, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, and in one dizzying sequence Wyatt scored 13 consecutive points for the Owls as Temple overcame a nine-point deficit to tie it 22-all.
On Saturday, Temple coach Fran Dunphy repeatedly said he was "concerned" about the Hoosiers, but at the break Indiana's Tom Crean had plenty to worry about.
Dayton Arena was still abuzz from Craft's game-winning shot, and Ohio State's point guard was on the floor when the Hoosiers ran out for warmups.
Indiana uses blocking pads during its layup drills, a way of toughening the Hoosiers up for the Big Ten's beastly schedule and physical game.
But if they thought their equipment might intimidate the Owls, they were badly mistaken.
The guys from Philly were just as menacing.
The Owls were willing to push the tempo and run with the Hoosiers early on, and that seemed like a bad idea when Indiana reeled off eight straight points to open an 18-9 lead. Temple was teetering, but Wyatt scored six straight points and the Owls' half-court defense was making the Hoosiers look like anything but a top seed.
The Hoosiers recovered — just in time.
Kentucky had barely finished cutting down the nets as national champions last year in New Orleans, when the Hoosiers, who lost to the Wildcats in the tournament, were labeled as the team to beat in 2013. They embraced the higher expectations, and led by seniors Hulls and Watford — players who were around when IU bottomed out amid scandal — Indiana spent most of this season at or near the top of the AP Top 25.
Indiana took a few lumps in the brutal Big Ten, but handed out many more than it received and wound up winning its first regular-season conference title since 1993.
Nice, but not close to the ultimate goal — a sixth national title.
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