Zeisloft, seniors reflect on the turning point for the Hoosiers

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BLOOMINGTON, IN - MARCH 6: Yogi Ferrell #11 and Nick Zeisloft #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers hold the Big Ten Championship trophy following the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Assembly Hall on March 6, 2016 in Bloomington, Indiana. Indiana defeated Maryland 80-62. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (March 7, 2016) — On Sunday night as the Hoosiers wrapped up the season with a win over Maryland and hoisted the Big Ten trophy for the crowd to see, everyone sticking around for senior night was anxiously awaiting for Yogi Ferrell to step up to the mic.

But before Yogi could say his piece, it was Nick Zeisloft’s turn to speak.

The Illinois State transfer began by reminiscing on the season and thanked his team and fans for embracing him when he transferred.

And then, after the thank you’s, came the honest truth about this year’s team.

We all remember when Indiana lost to two unranked opponents in the Maui Invitational.

According to Hoosier faithful, the season was already a total loss. “Throw in the towel, go home and move on to the Pacers season, they’re done. Lose to a Big Ten opponent, fine. Lose to a ranked team, no big deal. But lose to Wake Forest and UNLV?!” Unacceptable to the fans who live and breathe IU basketball.

But you know who remembers that sting of defeat and disappointment the most?

Nick Zeisloft and the players, because it was the moment something clicked for the team.

“Coach Crean was mad. He was really, really mad after Maui,” Zeisloft told a packed Assembly Hall. “He came into the lockeroom and he said ‘Do you guys play AT Indiana or do you play FOR Indiana?!”‘

Zeisloft joked, “We didn’t really know what to say….so we just said ‘Uhhhh, both I guess?'”

As you can expect, that wasn’t the right answer according to Tom Crean.

“Coach said ‘I see a bunch of guys who are playing at Indiana.'” Zeisloft said.

But that was three months ago. After the Hoosiers lost to Duke, they went on a 12 game win streak, ended the season undefeated at home and won the regular season Big Ten title outright.

So, 14 weeks and one Big Ten trophy later, Nick Zeisloft now has a suitable answer to the question that an angry coach Crean posed to his team in the lockeroom after those two tropical losses.

“I can now say that everyone on this team plays FOR Indiana,” Zeisloft said as he concluded his speech to a roar of cheers.

That’s exactly what that crowd wanted to hear. Everyone watching Indiana this season could see the difference after those three losses we keep circling as the turning point.

Yes, I understand the Hoosiers have the entire postseason to go, and a lot more that they want to do, but regardless of the outcome, the accomplishments of the regular season should not be forgotten and should not be dismissed.

No one expected Indiana, myself included, to win the Big Ten outright. In all honesty, if we rewind to the start of the season, most  would have said that Purdue will be the best team in the state, and possibly the Big Ten. The Hoosiers were not in the mix.

But as the senior transfer from Illinois State put it, we now know why they, not only got themselves into the mix, but separated themselves from the mix.

They play for Indiana and everything the program represents, not just at Indiana. The banners, the legacy, the candy stripes, the history, the die-hard and sometimes irrational fan base you can’t help but love–that’s the Indiana they play for, and the Indiana they hope to continue playing for into the month of April.