BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - A few quick thoughts from Indiana's 81-73 victory over Michigan.
Overview: The most anticipated game of the college basketball season to date more than lived up to its billing Saturday at Assembly Hall.
Cody Zeller scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Christian Watford added 14 and 10 to spark No. 3 Indiana to a hard-fought win over the top-ranked Wolverines in front of a sellout crowd of 17,472. Victor Oladipo added 15 points and played outstanding defense for the Hoosiers, who will likely be ranked No. 1 when the next Associated Press poll is released Monday.
Indiana opened the season atop the polls before losing its spot following a Dec. 15 loss to Butler.
With No. 2 Kansas losing Saturday it certainly wouldn't be a surprise if Michigan ended up right behind Indiana in the polls, although Florida could also make a strong case for No. 2 after dismantling Ole Miss.
Whatever the case, no one would be surprised if Indiana and Michigan played three more times this season: once in their scheduled regular-season tilt in Ann Arbor on March 10, once in the title game of the Big Ten tournament and also in the Final Four -- perhaps even for the NCAA title.
Indiana was on fire to start the game, hitting its first six shots -- including four from beyond the arc -- to spark a 26-11 run. Michigan fought back and trailed just 36-32 at intermission. And the Wolverines forced a 40-40 tie early in the second when Nik Stauskas made all of his free throws after being fouled by Jordan Hulls on a 3-point attempt.
Indiana, though, responded with an 11-0 run that made it 51-40. The Hoosiers would never trail again. That's not to say that Michigan didn't make a game of it. An offensive rebound and reverse layup by Jon Horford pulled the Wolverines within two, 53-51, at the 11-minute mark. But that's as close as it would get, as Indiana outscored Michigan 28-22 the rest of the way.
Turning point: A traditional three-point play by Michigan's Trey Burke with 4:53 remaining pulled the Wolverines within one possession, 61-58. But Hulls responded moments later for Indiana with a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 64-58. That gave the Hoosiers the momentum for good. A tip-in by Michigan's Mitch McGary made it 64-60, but Oladipo countered with a three-point play that gave Indiana a 67-60 cushion, and that was basically the ballgame.
Star of the game: As he has all season, Oladipo did it all for the Hoosiers and, if he hadn't already, catapulted into the national-player-of-the-year conversation. But the most encouraging effort came from Zeller, the preseason All-American who had struggled with bouts of inconsistency in recent weeks.
Burke scored 25 points for Michigan while Tim Hardaway Jr. added 18.
Key stat: Indiana shot 52 percent from the field and outscored Michigan 22-6 from the foul line.
Up next: Michigan hosts Ohio State on Tuesday; Indiana plays at Illinois on Thursday.