EAST LANSING, Mich. – If Indiana has a “House of Horrors” in men’s basketball, the Breslin Center would be a top candidate.
The last 17 games inside the events center have resulted in 17 defeats for the Hoosiers. From Knight to Davis. From Sampson to Dakich to Crean. The “Izzone” and the coach its named after had a habit of making things miserable for teams wearing the Crimson jerseys.
Tuesday would bring a unique chance to end the futility that has existed in the Breslin Center, which last saw an Indiana win on February 28, 1991. The Hoosiers came in with a win over the Spartans already this season and would face their fourth-ranked opponent as the number one team in the country.
Finally, that was enough to break the “Breslin Blues.”
In a classic back-and-forth match-up Indiana took a first half lead, then traded it with the Spartans in the final 20 minutes before holding on for the 72-68 victory-ending a 21-year drought in East Lansing. The Hoosiers now have a one-game lead over Michigan State in the conference standings with four games remaining, putting them in the drivers seat for their first Big Ten championship since 2002.
“Sometimes these games don’t live up to the hype,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean. “When we played Michigan a few weeks ago at home with (ESPN’s) College Gameday it did and without a doubt tonight it did.”
The ending helped to make it so. Victor Oladipo’s tip in with 39 seconds left gave the Hoosiers the lead for good and the guard scored the last six points for Indiana to seal the victory just three days after leaving the Purdue game after turning his ankle.
“It was all this adrenaline, all this energy around here. I just played through it. I didn’t feel it to be honest with you,” said Oladipo, who led the Hoosiers with 19 points. “My teammates did a great job of staying focused throughout the game and playing at a high level.”
Oladipo was the catalyst in the first half as helped the Hoosiers get off to the fast start.The junior guard had the highlight of the half when on an out of bounds play under the basket he threw it off a Michigan State player’s back and went up for the slam.
The junior guard finished with nine points in the half as the Hoosiers held the lead for three-quarters of the half, going up by as many as eight after a three-pointer by Christian Watford with 3:26 to play. That lead was trimmed to six by the Spartans before the half.
Michigan State got back to the lead for the first time since early in the game on a run in the middle of the second half, outscoring the Hoosiers 15-7 and grabbing the lead on a Branden Dawson layup with 13:23 to go. Indiana showed resolve, however, and managed to push the lead back up to six just three minutes later.
Yet again the Spartans went on another spurt and got up by three with two minutes to go on a pair of Derrick Nix’s layups that put Michigan State up 66-63. But Oladipo came through for the Hoosiers again, giving them the lead with 39 seconds left when he put back a missed shot. The guard would add another bucket with seven seconds left to go to push the lead to three with seven seconds remaining.
That’s when more drama began. On a three-point attempt with 3.7 seconds left Gary Harris received three free throws after drawing a foul on a three-point shot. But Harris missed the first free throw, made the second and was forced to miss the thirds in hopes of a rebound and a bucket to tie in the final seconds.
But the ball went to Oladipo, who got the rebound, got fouled, made two free throws and sealed a win in Breslin nearly a generation in the making.
“It definitely means a lot right now,” said forward Christian Watford of the win. “We think its going to have great value. At this point you just have to rejoice on it and keep moving forward.”
At least now at the place in green and white, they won’t have to look back.