BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- All Indiana (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) wanted to do after Tuesday night's big victory was get back to work.
Heck, the Hoosiers didn't even see their 70-55 victory over No. 5 Michigan State as a milestone achievement.
Cody Zeller scored 18 points, Victor Oladipo had 13 and Christian Watford finished with 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds to lead the Hoosiers to their third win over a top-five team this season.
"When we beat top teams like that we're nasty, we're scrappy, we're fighting," said senior Verdell Jones, who had 12 points. "But we haven't accomplished anything yet."
Indiana (23-7, 10-7) had already become the first Big Ten school to upset the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same season since 1952-53.
It had already given Tom Crean his first 20-win season since leaving Marquette four years ago.
Last week, Indiana completed its first undefeated nonconference season since 1989-90.
The latest victory ended the Hoosiers' longest losing streak in the Michigan State series (six) while preventing the Spartans from clinching an outright league crown on their home court.
Plus, they became the first Hoosiers team to beat three top-five teams in the regular season. The records have been kept since 1948-49.
Not bad for a day's work.
Indiana and Kansas are the only schools to beat three top-five teams this season.
The Jayhawks beat No. 2 Ohio State in December, No. 3 Baylor in January and No. 3 Missouri on Saturday. Indiana beat No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State in December and added Michigan State to the list.
They are still a long way from reaching the pinnacle.
"When we first got here, we talked about uncharted water. It was for everybody. It's the same thing now, when you're climbing and you're getting better," Crean said. "We cannot get caught up in anything but that climb and making that climb better."
Indiana's steady progression has put it in line to make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008.
But the Hoosiers must still play archrival Purdue on Sunday and the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis before they can worry about, finally, ending the postseason drought.
And Crean wanted his players to take that same singular focus against Michigan State (24-6, 13-4).
The players got the message, stealing a page right out of the Michigan State playbook. Indiana beat the Spartans on the glass, on defense and were just plain tougher when it mattered most.
"We didn't defend them, we didn't rebound, we didn't execute," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said after losing to Crean, his ex-assistant, for the first time in seven games. "I think Indiana deserves a lot of credit for putting us in that position. They did a great job of moving the ball and just driving at us, and we didn't respond very well."
So instead of needing a game-winning shot or a last-second shot, all the Hoosiers had to do was dribble out the clock.
Draymond Green finished with 29 points, including 16 straight during a stretch of about 12 minutes, and eight rebounds for Michigan State. None of his teammates scored more than eight points, and the lack of help doomed Michigan State's hopes of winning a second outright conference title in four years though they can still win the title with a victory over Ohio State (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) on Sunday.
But the Spartans never had much of a chance Tuesday.
From the early moments, Indiana continually drove to the basket, drew fouls and made free throws. The Hoosiers took advantage with an early 12-2 run that made it 18-8.
After calling time out, Izzo, who had been shaking his head in disbelief, finally saw the Spartans warm up. Austin Thornton finished a fastbreak with a layup, then popped outside and hit a 3-pointer to make it 18-13.
But every time Michigan State got close, Indiana answered.
Green's first 3 got the Spartans within 24-20.
Watford answered with a 3 to start 12-5 run that allowed Indiana to take a 41-27 halftime lead. It was the most points Michigan State surrendered in a first half all season.
"They played well, they deserved to win," Izzo said.
Michigan State got close again early in the second half when Green scored six points in a 10-0 run to make it 43-37 with 15:47 left.
But Indiana scored straight points and four more in a row after Green hit another 3 to make it 51-40. Michigan State never got closer than six points again.
"Our team responded," Crean said. "As we kept saying today, it's not hit or be hit, it's hit or be out. This is a game where you have to be in the mix because they set the standard for our league and the country in terms of toughness. Our guys matched it and I'm very, very proud of them."
- Mike Kitts
- Gene Steratore
- Tom O'Neill