For the fifth time in as many weeks the No. 1 team in the nation lost. Thursday night in Champaign, Ill., Tyler Griffey’s wide open layup as time expired lifted Illinois to a much needed 74-72 win over top-ranked Indiana.
On the game-winning play, the Hoosiers’ focus was on D.J. Richardson, who was coming off a screen looking for an open look. Due to the screen and a lack of communication, Cody Zeller lost Griffey, as he cut to the basket to score the game winning bucket.
While Griffey went on to be the game’s hero, Zeller had himself a “Tyler moment.”
Before the season began, Zeller, the preseason player of the year, was profiled in a piece written by Matt Crossman of Sporting News.
In the profile, Crossman explained how Zeller always learned from watching his brothers, Luke at Notre Dame and Tyler and North Carolina.
Last season, when Tyler Zeller played for North Carolina, Duke’s Austin Rivers hit a last-second 3-pointer to lift Duke over UNC, one of the most dramatic shots in the history of that rivalry. Tyler was criticized for not getting in Rivers’ face to contest the shot.
A few months later, Indiana was in the closing seconds against VCU in the NCAA Tournament. VCU had the ball with a chance to win. In the huddle, as Indiana discussed defensive switches, Cody vowed to be aggressive. “I even told someone, ‘You better believe I’m going to get out. I’m not going to have a Tyler moment.’ ”
When the play started, Cody blitzed a screen and jumped out on the ballhandler at the 3-point line. That forced the VCU player to drive into the lane. He had no chance to shoot over Zeller, so he passed to a man on the wing. He missed the shot, and the Hoosiers won.
During Thursday night’s loss, Zeller was on the wrong end of a game-winning play, having his own “Tyler moment.” As one of the nation’s top players and future a top 5 pick in the NBA Draft, the youngest Zeller will likely learn from his own experiences.