Victor Oladipo Indiana

Victor Oladipo carries No. 7 Indiana in big conference win over No. 13 Michigan State

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Despite the hype that greeted then-No. 1 Indiana and its sophomore sensation, Cody Zeller, coming into the season, something has become clearer.

As important as Zeller is to Indiana’s ultimate fate and its national championship hopes this season, junior Victor Oladipo is quickly holding just as much a stake in that future.

On an afternoon when Zeller was off his offensive game and finished with just nine points on 2-of-7 shooting, Oladipo carried the Hoosiers with 21 points in a 75-70 win over Michigan State at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., Sunday.

Oladipo was the catalyst and energy source that the Hoosiers needed. His steal and transition dunk on Michigan State’s opening possession set the pace in the early going for Indiana. The steal was one of six on the afternoon for Oladipo, all part of a performance that should firmly cement him in the conversation for Big Ten Player of the Year and perhaps even enter the race for National Player of the Year.

But in an afternoon where Zeller was not at his best, he still affected the game for Indiana down the stretch. With 1:39 remaining and the shot clock winding down, Zeller drove from well beyond the three-point line, down the left side of the lane for a key layup that put Indiana up by two possessions.

Two Michigan State possessions later, he stepped in front of Michigan State’s Adreian Payne to draw a charge with 0:14 remaining to seal the win.

Michigan State lived on the three-point ball Sunday, going 11-of-23 from distance and starkly contrasting the struggles they endured in in a win over loss to Wisconsin earlier in the week.

Travis Price’s three-pointer brought Michigan State within one, 69-68 with 4:54 to play in the second half.

In hand with that reliance on the outside game, the Spartans also made a more concerted effort to get forwards Payne and Derrick Nix involved around the rim. After taking a combined seven shots against Wisconsin, Payne finished with 18 and Nix had eight.

Perhaps most surprising for Michigan State was the absence of point guard Keith Appling, who took just four shots and finished with three points and four turnovers before fouling out. If there is a silver lining for the Spartans, a struggling Appling on the road at Indiana results in just a five point loss. With all pistons firing, this could have been a different game.

A rematch on Feb. 19 could settle the score.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.

No. 23 USC falls at Arizona State

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley applauds the efforts of his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
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No. 23 USC missed a golden opportunity to make up a game in the Pac-12 standings on Friday night.

No. 11 Oregon lost to Colorado on Thursday night, dropping back into a tie for first place in the league with the Trojans, a game ahead of No. 17 Arizona. But USC fell at Arizona State, 74-67, keeping them a game off of the pace that the Ducks have set.

The loss is even more painful when you consider that, on Sunday, the Trojans will be making the trip to Tucson to take on Arizona. The Wildcats are not what we have become accustomed to seeing under Sean Miller, but they are still a top 25 team and the McKale Center is still one of the toughest places in the country to get a win.

Thanks to Friday’s loss, instead of entering McKale with an outside chance of taking over sole possession of first place in the league, USC will have top hope they don’t fall two games off the pace.

As far as the game itself was concerned, USC committed 17 turnovers, shot 2-for-11 from three and gave up 16 offensive rebounds to Arizona State. That’s how you lose a game where you shoot better than 51 percent from the floor. USC was just never able to consistently get out into transition, and that caused them to struggle executing in the half court.

Nikola Jovanovic led the way with 25 points and 15 boards for USC.

Tra Holder’s 20 points made the difference for Arizona State, who kept themselves within striking distance of an at-large bid with the win.