Indiana hoists Big Ten championship trophy after Tuesday's loss to Ohio State (screen grab via ESPN3.com)
Had Indiana clinched its first outright league title since 1993 by beating Ohio State, the Hoosiers could have celebrated in front of a sellout crowd by donning championship hats, cutting down the nets at Assembly Hall and hoisting a Big Ten trophy.a surprising 67-58 loss Tuesday night ... and still did all the rest of that stuff anyway.
In a coronation that felt anticlimactic and ill-timed, Indiana president Michael McRobbie awarded the team with a silver Big Ten championship trophy at the end of senior night festivities even though the Hoosiers still have one more conference game to play. They've known they'll have at least a share of the league title since Michigan State and Wisconsin both lost this past weekend, but they'll only earn it outright by winning at Michigan on Sunday.
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It's unclear whose idea it was to celebrate the Big Ten title win or lose Tuesday night, but the impression many viewers were left with was that Indiana had no contingency plan for a home loss. Why rejoice over a co-championship when there's still a chance to have the Big Ten title all to yourself?
“This is the epitome of bittersweet," Indiana coach Tom Crean told reporters after the net-cutting was complete. "We’re trying to celebrate what these guys have earned at same time, we didn’t earn it tonight.”
The unusually somber celebration was symbolic of the way Ohio State crashed Indiana's senior night party.
Aided by precise defensive rotations, quick hands and feet and relentless on-ball defense, the Buckeyes held the high-octane Hoosiers to only 25 first-half points and 39.6 percent shooting for the game. Guards Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft had four steals apiece and Deshaun Thomas sank the biggest shot of the game, a pick-and-pop 3 to put Ohio State up 59-50 with just over four minutes remaining.
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Cody Zeller and Christian Watford combined for 29 points and nine rebounds to keep the Hoosiers competitive, but foul-plagued Victor Oladipo and the rest of the backcourt had minimal success against Ohio State's lockdown perimeter defenders. As a result, Indiana came to regret its choice to hold senior night festivities for Watford, Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston after the final buzzer instead of before tipoff.
There were glum faces. There were more empty seats than usual. And there was a really weird Big Ten championship celebration after a loss that could ultimately cost Indiana the outright league title.
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