Victor Oladipo's huge top-of-the-key 3-pointer might have clinched Indiana's berth in the Sweet 16, but it wasn't the biggest play of the top-seeded Hoosiers' tense 58-52 victory over Temple on Sunday afternoon.
That honor goes to a key blocked shot and a savvy coaching decision earlier in the final minutes.
With just over two minutes remaining and Temple trying to extend a two-point lead, the Owls spaced the floor, enabling Khalif Wyatt to find Anthony Lee in the paint for what appeared to be a wide-open dunk. Instead Christian Watford came from behind the play to make an unlikely clean block, keeping Indiana's deficit at two and enabling the Hoosiers to tie the score on the ensuing possession.
Temple still only trailed by one point with 54 seconds remaining when Owls coach Fran Dunphy asked for a timeout to set up a play with eight seconds left on the shot clock. It was then that Tom Crean made his shrewdest move of the game, opting to double team Wyatt rather than guard the inbound pass.
Unable to get the ball to Wyatt off the inbound pass and lacking enough time on the shot clock to get him the ball on a second or third pass, Temple had to settle for a badly off-target jumper by Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. Never again did the Owls have a chance to tie or take a lead thanks to Oladipo's ensuing 3-pointer to put the Hoosiers up four with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
Indiana's victory wasn't a work of art, but the Hoosiers will gladly take it warts and all in a tournament that has already seen a No. 1 seed, a No. 2 seed and a No. 3 seed eliminated. They survived a physical, bruising defensive struggle, exactly the type of game that had produced two of their previous losses against Wisconsin earlier this season.
It's not a huge surprise Temple was able to be competitive with Indiana considering the way the Owls performed in non-conference tests against elite teams earlier this season. Though they were clobbered by Duke in early December, they upset Syracuse two weeks later and pushed Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in early January.
Temple might have pulled another upset Sunday if it just could have provided a little more help to Wyatt offensively.
The senior guard was brilliant in his final game, scoring 31 of his team's 52 points on 12 of 24 shooting and 9 of 12 from inside the arc. Unfortunately for Wyatt, Temple's second-leading scorer Scootie Randall suffered through a 0-for-11 shooting night and the Owls made only 3 of 24 attempts from behind the arc.
What Temple did exceptionally well is shackle Indiana's high-powered offense. Nobody besides Oladipo and Cody Zeller scored more than 10 points for the Hoosiers, who were held to less than 60 points for the first time in any of their victories this season.
But aesthetics won't matter to Indiana in a one-and-done tournament that rewards teams who find a way to survive and advance.
Thanks to a big shot from Oladipo and a pair of previous under-the-radar plays, the Hoosiers did just that.