The Free Press, Mankato, MN

NCAA Basketball

February 20, 2013

No Indiana surprise as Oladipo rises to another challenge for No. 1 Hoosiers

— Maybe it’s time for Victor Oladipo to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, out-run trains and prove he’s more powerful than, well, you get the point.

If you saw Indiana’s junior guard single-handedly crush Michigan State’s Big Ten title hopes, you know limits have no relevance.

The guy had a bad ankle and still totaled 19 points, nine rebounds and five steals in the top-ranked Hoosiers’ 72-68 win at No. 4 Michigan State on Tuesday night.

“He’s great,” teammate Cody Zeller said. “He’s been great for us all year. We have so many different players who have stepped up for us at different times of the year and this time it was Victor down the stretch. He’s a great player. That’s what great players do.”

Here’s a snapshot of greatness. In the last minute, with a Big Ten title and, perhaps, a No. 1 NCAA tourney seed at stake, in front of a roaring Breslin Center crowd screaming for his failure, Oladipo had a steal, two baskets and two victory-clinching free throws.

“It’s just Victor being Victor,” teammate Jordan Hulls said. “He’s going to surprise you in a lot of different things on both ends of the floor. Once you get that adrenaline going, you kind of forget about your ankle.

“Victor played huge for us.”

Here’s how huge. IU hadn’t won in East Lansing since 1991, a year before Oladipo was born. That was 17 straight losses.

And it might have been 18 if Oladipo hadn’t played as if the ankle he’d sprained three days earlier against Purdue was fiction instead of fact.

We know for sure he wasn’t full strength. Coach Tom Crean was adamant:

“There’s no way he was 100 percent. He wasn’t close. The way he played was excellent, but the way he finished this game … he was winded. There’s no doubt his foot hurt.

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