It was billed as the Big Ten’s heavyweight title fight of the year and it did not disappoint.
Behind a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Cody Zeller, No. 3 Indiana outmuscled No. 1 Michigan down the stretch for an 81-73 victory Saturday night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.
Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo set the pace for Indiana on both the offensive and defensive ends. Oladipo’s energy was a catalyst and his impact was felt in more ways than just his 17 points and three rebounds.
Indiana had Assembly Hall on fire from the start, jumping out to a 28-13 lead with 10:13 to play in the first half.
The difference early was energy, with Indiana pushing the basketball and scoring with Oladipo, Zeller, and Christian Watford all contributing and getting the crowd at Assembly Hall to become a factor. Indiana coach Tom Crean was even vocal and visibly expressive in trying to rile up the fans in attendance.
But the same speed that allowed Indiana to get out to an early lead also allowed Michigan to get back into the game, once the Hoosiers sped up too much for their own good.
Indiana turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, almost negating an advantage in rebounding (+8 in 1st half) and shooting percentage (Indiana: 54 percent, Michigan: 40 percent).
While Glenn Robinson III struggled in the first half and Tim Hardaway, Jr., was relatively quiet, point guard Trey Burke carried the Wolverines in the first twenty minutes.
He was relentless in transition and pushed the pace to score 14 of his 25 points in the first half, including a key three-pointer at the close of the half to pull Michigan within four at the break. He would finish with his game-high 25 points on 9-of-24 shooting, while adding eight assists and five rebounds.
Coming out in the second half, Michigan worked to tie the game at 40 with 17:42 to play after three Nik Stauskas free throws.
But from that point, Indiana seized control.
The Hoosiers ripped off an 11-0 run over the next 3:14, capped by a Will Sheehey jumper with 14:27 to play to extend the lead to 51-40. During that stretch, Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. picked up third foul and was forced to the bench. Despite sitting out for that stretch, he finished with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
Michigan responded quickly with an 11-2 run of its own to pull back within two points, 53-51.
Indiana fought to take control again, never letting Michigan get within four points after the 7:13 mark. Two consecutive Zeller dunks and an Oladipo layup with a questionable “and-one” foul tacked on, extended the lead to seven and the Hoosiers never looked back.
This is the fifth time this season that the No. 1 team has fallen, following Indiana’s loss to Butler, Duke’s losses to both Miami and NC State, and Louisville’s loss to Syracuse.
Indiana now claims sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a conference mark of 8-1, 20-2 overall. Michigan falls into a tie for second at 7-2 with No. 13 Michigan State and No. 11 Ohio State.