BLOOMINGTON – Good things didn’t have to wait for the Hoosiers as their Sunday practice was getting underway.
Twenty minutes in the result of the Michigan-Michigan State game reached the Indiana team as their drills were beginning. The Wolverines had won, Wisconsin had lost earlier in the day. That made those players on the floor conference champions for the first time.
“There’s no question that they felt great last night when they knew the scores of the two games,” admitted head coach Tom Crean, who won a share of his first Big Ten Championship at Indiana thanks to those losses and his team’s win at home over Iowa on Saturday night.
But the pride the coach felt was not in the accomplishment on that day but rather his players reaction in the aftermath.
“But in true fashion of the way that they’ve been, we were twenty minutes into practice. They just kept moving right on,” said Crean. “I think it’s the same thing today – it’s all about Ohio State and it’s all about them competing.”
Indeed there are a lot of things still at stake for the Hoosiers even though they picked up a share of the title for the first time since 2002. Thirteenth-ranked Ohio State comes to Bloomington on Tuesday night which presents a chance for the Hoosiers to clinch the title for themselves.
The drought for the school in that category is 20 seasons, having last won an outright championship in the 1992-1993 season.
“It’s something that we’ve been working on the whole year, so it’s obviously exciting for us,” said sophomore center Cody Zeller of the shared title. “It’s only a share of the Big Ten Championship so we went right back to work.
“We want to get this win tomorrow night and have it all for ourselves.”
Of course the team could still accomplish that even if they come up short against the Buckeyes since a trip to Michigan awaits on Sunday with the same scenario in place. But senior night brings motivation for success especially considering the road Jordan Hulls, Derek Elston and Christian Watford took to get there.
All three arrived in Bloomington early in the days of the program’s rebuild after Crean, enduring three-and-four win seasons in the Big Ten. Sending them off with a 14th victory in conference play this session is a responsibility for many of the underclassmen.
“They just deserve it the most out of everyone on the team,” said freshman guard Yogi Ferrell of the senior. “What they’ve gone through and to do something we haven’t done in so many years and to win this is going to feel special to us but to them too.”
Looking farther ahead is Crean, who may have the NCAA Tournament’s number one overall seed if the Hoosiers can finish off their last two games and the Big Ten Tournament well.
“I think to do what they’ve done and to have a hold of this title to be able to look at that as an accomplishment is great, but I don’t think there’s any of them that are spending any time thinking about what they’ve done,” said Crean. “It’s more about what they’re doing and what they’re about to do.
“I think that’s a great sign of a mature team.”