Zeller lifts Indiana to outright Big Ten crown

The SportsXchange

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As it turned out, Indiana was not in a sharing mood Sunday.

Faced with the prospect of sharing the Big Ten championship with three other teams, the Hoosiers edged Michigan 72-71 to clinch the outright conference title.

No. 2 Indiana handed No. 7 Michigan its first home loss of the season and prevented the Wolverines from earning a piece of the league crown.

The Hoosiers trailed by as many as five points in the final minute. Michigan, which missed the front end of two 1-and-1 foul shots that could have sealed the win, fell behind for good when Indiana center Cody Zeller converted a layup with 14 seconds to play.

"I shot it and tried to be aggressive and make a play," said Zeller, a 7-foot sophomore who scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

Wolverines point guard Trey Burke missed a driving layup in the final seconds, and a tip by forward Jordan Morgan bounced around the rim and off as time expired.

With the victory, the Hoosiers (26-5, 14-4 Big Ten) claimed their first outright league title in 20 years, and they kept Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State from grabbing a piece of the championship. It also completed Indiana's rise back to prominence after struggling in recent years, including a stretch that included eight conference wins combined in three seasons.

"It means a lot," Zeller said. "Where the program was a few years ago, it's nice to be on the other side of things. To win it all, and win it all on our own adds a little extra. It definitely feels good."

Burke led the Wolverines (25-6, 12-6) with 20 points, including 16 in the second half. Michigan also received double-digit scoring performances from freshman forward Glenn Robinson III (13), freshman guard Nik Stauskas (12) and junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (11).

Hardaway and Burke each missed the front end of a 1-and-1 late in the game. Afterward, Burke said the loss was as difficult a defeat as he can remember.

"It hurts a lot. It hurts a lot for all of us," he said. "We had an opportunity to win a Big Ten championship. We still have other goals in mind to still go after. I guess that's how we have to look at it."

The quest for one of those goals, a Big Ten tournament title, will begin Thursday, when the fifth-seeded Wolverines will take on Penn State. Indiana, which clinched the top seed at the tourney, will not play until Friday.

In addition to Zeller, Victor Oladipo (14 points), Will Sheehey (10) also reached double figures for the Hoosiers. All of Sheehey's points came in the second half.

The 6-5 Oladipo, who like Burke is a national Player of the Year candidate, guarded Michigan's sophomore for much of the game. Oladipo had a career-high 13 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. As a team, Indiana outrebounded Michigan 53-30, and the Hoosiers had 24 offensive boards, compared to 12 for the Wolverines.

Hardaway called the rebounding discrepancy a "disgrace" and "embarrassing."

"It just shows they wanted it more than we did," he added.

Although the first half ended with Michigan holding a slim 33-30 lead, it was characterized by runs from both teams. Indiana charged to an early 10-3 advantage behind a pair of 3-pointers by Jordan Hulls before Michigan took over. A block by Hardaway on Oladipo led to a fast-break dunk from Morgan, sparking the Wolverines to a 12-0 run.

Michigan eventually led by as many as 11 points -- 27-16 -- later in the half when Burke drained a 3-pointer. But the Hoosiers were far from finished. Zeller began the game slowly, then scored seven of his nine first-half points in the final 3 minutes, 22 seconds.

"We never got down," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "There was never that faraway look. There was never anything but being locked into the moment and believing. They've earned their chance to be in these games ... and they made some really, really big plays."

NOTES: Zeller also committed six turnovers.... Michigan connected on 10 of 22 3-point attempts, including a 5-for-8 showing from Burke. Indiana hit seven of 16 attempts from long distance. ... Michigan was seeking to repeat as Big Ten champion for the first time since 1985-86.
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