CHICAGO (AP) — No matter what happens the rest of the way,
Indiana coach Tom Crean believes his team deserves a No. 1 seed in the
won't have to lobby hard if the Hoosiers keep this up.
scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead No. 3 Indiana past
Illinois 80-64 Friday in the Big Ten quarterfinals.
Hoosiers (27-5) are off to a good start after claiming their first
outright conference title in two decades and earning a first-round bye.
control midway through the first half and withstood a mild push in the
second, avenging a two-point loss at Illinois (22-12) last month. That set
up a matchup with Michigan or Wisconsin in Saturday's semifinals.
Win or lose,
though, Crean said his team should get a No. 1 seed come Sunday.
"I would think
— I would hope — we've done enough," he said. "I think when you have the
league the way that it is and you win it outright the way that we did ...
I think one of the bigger things is the way that we played on the road,
and the only home losses that Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State have
are to us. I think that says a lot because those are also three teams that
can win a national championship and have been considered that way most of
actually lost at home to Kansas in December. Even so, Crean's bigger point
win at Michigan on Sunday gave the Hoosiers the conference championship,
and just as he did in that one, Zeller came up big in this game. He was 9
of 11 from the field and hit all six free throws after scoring a
season-high 25 against the Wolverines.
double teaming so I was trying to find the open man," he said. "But even
if I don't score it, it opens up a lot of things for our shooters on the
outside. I thought we did a nice job of that and it opened up a lot."
added 12 points and 11 rebounds and drew the loudest cheers with a
360-degree fastbreak dunk with 90 seconds left. The Big Ten's Defensive
Player of the Year, he also helped contain Brandon Paul.
Watford scored 15, and the Hoosiers shot 54 percent overall even though
they were just 5 of 17 on 3-pointers.
They were able
to get good shots, though, because they locked up the Illini on defense
and dominated them on the glass 38-26.
with 16 points, but most of them came from the free throw line, where he
was 11 of 12. Otherwise, it was a rough afternoon. He shot just 2 of 13
after scoring 25 and hitting the winning jumper at the buzzer in the first
round against Minnesota.
scored 16, but Illinois was out of sync at the start and couldn't make up
for it down the stretch.
"They get into
you," Paul said. "Obviously, Oladipo's a great defender. They play hard.
They're scrappy. We missed some shots. I was trying to get to the free
throw line. I think I did that well, but some shots just have to fall.
They fell (Thursday). They didn't fall today. That's just something that
The Illini got
within single digits for the first time since the early going when D.J.
Richardson hit two free throws with 8:17 left to make it 60-52, but
Indiana held its ground.
whipped a pass to Oladipo underneath for a layup after Abrams missed a 3,
and the Hoosiers struck again after Richardson missed from long range.
This time, Watford hit from beyond the arc to make it 65-52 with 5:31
remaining, and the Hoosiers fans let out a loud roar and maybe a sigh of
really rocking, though, when Oladipo threw down that dunk near the end. On
an instinct, he decided to add some spice to it.
"It was just a
last-second thought," he said. "I thought about it while I was in the air.
I just kind of turned around while I was in the air."
Is that the
best he has?
not my best one," he said.
Then there was
Zeller, dominating with 14 points as the Hoosiers built a 35-21 halftime
He keyed a
12-2 run that bumped their lead from five to 22-7, scoring eight during
that stretch, and he finished the half with a neat basket. He grabbed the
ball in midair and redirected it into the net after Jeremy Hollowell had
his shot blocked by the Illini's Nnanna Egwu.
reason he was on all those magazines to start the season," Illinois coach
John Groce said.