Sunday, February 10, 2013
In a game of stars, Oladipo shines for IU
By Austin Ward
Hoosiers guard Victor Oladipo added to his national player of the year résumé on Sunday afternoon.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The stars were everywhere, and they all took turns doing what they do best.
Aaron Craft supplied his usual shutdown defense for Ohio State, relentlessly pressuring the ball and making it difficult to find breathing room.
Cody Zeller was a matchup nightmare in the post, scoring with relative ease on the interior and controlling the glass for Indiana.
Deshaun Thomas turned in another prolific offensive performance, making it seem as routine to score against the Hoosiers as anybody else in the brutal Big Ten.
But only one guy managed to do all of those things from start to finish on Sunday afternoon at Value City Arena, with Victor Oladipo shining brightest as No. 1 Indiana bounced back with an 81-68 win over No. 10 Ohio State. And now the conversations about his blossoming candidacy as a potential national player of the year are only going to get louder.
“Yeah, I hear it here and there,” Oladipo said. “People tell me, you know, and it comes up. But I don’t even pay any mind to it, because at the end of the day that can all be taken away from you in the blink of an eye.
“There wasn’t anybody saying this about me last year, so I just have to keep going and do whatever it takes for my team to win. When I play at a high level, my team does.”
The Hoosiers hardly could have soared much higher than they did on the road against the Buckeyes; literally when Oladipo was chasing down a loose ball and emphatically turning it into a vicious two-handed slam, or figuratively as they erased more than a decade of struggles against top-10 opponents on the road.
Oladipo certainly wasn’t solely responsible for delivering Indiana its first signature win away from home since a victory over Notre Dame in 2000, particularly since another leading candidate for national hardware was lined up next to him, with Zeller’s 24 points and 8 rebounds closely mirroring his 26 points and 8 boards.
But it was the diverse way the junior guard stuffed the stat sheet that helped overwhelm the Buckeyes, along with a knack for delivering scoring bursts and crowd-silencing flashes of athleticism at just the right moment that helped keep the Hoosiers in control.
There was the flurry before halftime with eight of Indiana’s last 12 points -- including the jaw-dropping slam and an acrobatic lay-in of an alley-oop. Then there was another quick burst that showed off his skills both inside and out with a right-handed hook and a pull-up 3-pointer from the right wing that snuffed out an Ohio State rally and pushed the margin back up to nine points.
That was reward enough on its own for Oladipo, who made clear the only trophies he is chasing are awarded to teams. And the outcome was certainly good enough for Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, who isn’t playing favorites between his two high-profile contributors and seems to have little interest in the discussion in the first place.
“I really don’t [pay attention], but I’ve got a couple of great players, though,” Crean said. “Again, I’m not [a promoter]. I read other coaches and I read what they talk about their players and I feel, ‘Am I not doing enough?’
“We’re trying to focus so much on the team, and then I’ll hear, ‘Well, they’ve got the best backcourt, and this is the best defensive backcourt, and they’ve got the best frontcourt.’ At the end of the day, we’re trying to have the best team.”
The Hoosiers might not officially stay on that perch when the new rankings come out tomorrow after dropping the first game on their road swing Thursday against Illinois. And Oladipo may still not have quite enough buzz to climb to the top of the unofficial rankings among the best individuals in the country.
But at their current pace, both the Hoosiers and Oladipo could make their way there for good by the end of the season.
“It took everybody to win,” Oladipo said. “That’s great that people think of me like that, but I don’t really think of myself as that. I know what I have to do, and I just want to win ballgames to be honest with you.
“I just worry about my team and winning, and I want to win at a high level, man.”
There was no shortage of star players gunning to do that Sunday. And Oladipo left little doubt about how much wattage he's capable of delivering for the Hoosiers when it counts.