NEW YORK -- The Indiana Hoosiers found themselves fighting to catch up against the Georgia Bulldogs for almost all of the first half. The Hoosiers watched Cody Zeller, their preseason favorite for national player of the year honors who was weakened by an illness that kept him out of practice most of the week, get reduced to a relative non-factor.
But then Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo's drives to the basket sparked the Hoosiers, and Indiana's long-range shooting eventually took over. The top-ranked Hoosiers stormed back in the second half to top Georgia, 66-53 in the semifinal round of the Progressive Legends Classic at the Barclays Center on Monday night.
The Hoosiers (4-0) will play the winner of the UCLA-Georgetown semifinal Tuesday night in the championship game. Georgia (1-3) will play the loser in a consolation game.
"He was huge with his energy," Zeller said of Oladipo, who led the Hoosiers with 15 points and eight rebounds. "A lot of guys came out in the second half and picked up the energy, and that was the difference."
Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford added 14 points apiece, each hitting key 3-pointers in a second-half spurt that helped Indiana pull away.
Zeller, who said he "finally got my wind back in the second half," was limited to six points and four rebounds. He played just nine minutes in the first half, when he committed two fouls.
"I'd like to credit our defense for his numbers tonight, not just foul trouble ... because I thought we did a pretty good job on him," Georgia coach Mark Fox said of Zeller.
Indiana coach Tom Crean dismissed the idea that Zeller was affected by what was considered a heavy presence of NBA scouts, comparing the 7-foot sophomore to NFL first-round pick Andrew Luck by saying Zeller's future was all but set.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 14 points to lead Georgia, hitting four 3-pointers. Vincent Williams also scored 14 for the Bulldogs, who took Zeller out of the game, but were not able to capitalize in the second half. Fox said the team had some "immature possessions," including some quick misses of 3-point attempts.
"It was a very hard-fought game, a game we thought we could win," Fox said.
While Zeller was far from a dominant force, scoring just two points in 18 minutes in the second half, Oladipo sparked the Hoosiers after they had trailed for most of the first half.
Oladipo scored seven of Indiana's first 11 points in the second half, helping it take a 40-38 lead with 13:44 left. It was just Indiana's third lead of the game, but the Hoosiers would never trail after that.
With Watford and Oladipo sandwiching 3-pointers around a pair by Hulls, Indiana then went on a 3-point shooting spree for a 14-4 run to open the gap to 54-42 with 7:03 left.
The Indiana defense also stepped up in the second half, as Crean said the Hoosiers "wanted to keep pressure on the ball constantly."
Georgia led for most of the first half, with Caldwell-Pope and Vincent Williams scoring six points apiece. Zeller was limited to four points as picked up two fouls in the first half.
Indiana took its first lead since the opening minute, 20-19, with 5:43 left in the half, when Watford hit two free throws. But it was short-lived as the Bulldogs soon regained the lead. With Caldwell-Pope hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the final three minutes, Georgia entered halftime up 30-29.
NOTES: Former Indiana coach Bobby Knight, who has had little interaction with the school since his departure as coach, was a broadcaster for the game for ESPNU. He and Crean, who has been vocal about trying to get Knight to re-connect with the program, shook hands. "I just said, 'Hello,' shook Coach Knight's hand and he said, 'Good luck,'" Crean said. Crean added he would be eager to watch a replay of the broadcast to absorb Knight's insights, as he does when a person he respects is broadcasting an Indiana game. ... Remy Abell scored eight points and had four rebounds for the Hoosiers, also adding a key assist as Indiana began to assert itself in the second half. ... Nemanja Djurisic scored eight points and had six assists for Georgia. ... The crowd was predominantly made of up Indiana fans, as the noise level picked up as the Hoosiers finally took the lead.