EAST LANSING, Mich. – The putback had already put Indiana ahead of Michigan State, but it was the dunk that ripped the heart out of the Spartans.
Victor Oladipo all but sealed No. 1 Indiana's 72-68 victory over No. 4 Michigan State on Tuesday night when Christian Watford found the guard on an inbounds pass that led to a breakaway dunk and a three-point lead with 10.1 seconds to play.
"Nobody was open coming to the basketball, and I just so happened to see him at the last second," Watford said. "It took a lot of guts to make the pass, but I definitely threw it.
"I'd figured he'd run under it. Victor is pretty fast. He did a great job of running under it."
Watford's confidence that Oladipo could run to get under the long pass was a bit of a leap of fate.
The junior guard was not at 100 percent in Tuesday's game, according to IU coach Tom Crean. Oladipo twisted his left ankle in Saturday's win over Purdue.
Any pain Oladipo had was well masked as he scored 19 points and had nine rebounds and five steals. He also sealed the win with two free throws with 2.5 seconds to play after Michigan State's Gary Harris could only make 1 of 3 free throws with 3.7 seconds to play.
"I was probably at 85-90 (percent)," Oladipo said. "But plus the adrenaline and fans, I was 100 percent. There was no question (I was going to play), maybe from everybody else and coach and them. But you would have had to kill me in order to miss this game."
Indiana (24-3, 12-2) took over sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with the win over Michigan State (22-5, 11-3).
It was the Hoosiers' fourth win over a team ranked in the top 10 after previous wins over then-No. 8 Minnesota (88-81 Jan. 12), then-No. 1 Michigan (81-73 Feb. 2) and then-No. 10 Ohio State (81-68 Feb. 10).
Tuesday's game saw Michigan State charge back midway through the second half then had the teams exchange the lead seven times from there, had a clock malfunction when the time didn't start running on a Spartans' inbounds play with 21.8 second to play then the drama of the final 10 seconds of a breakaway dunk, three free throws for Michigan State then finally Oladipo's game-sealing free shots.
"Sometimes these games don't live up to the hype. We played Michigan at home a few weeks ago for 'College GameDay,' and it did. Without a doubt tonight, it did," Crean said.
Cody Zeller and Oladipo each scored their 1,000th career points in Tuesday's win over Michigan State.
Zeller scored 17 to give him 1,011 for his career, and Oladipo pushed his career total to 1,005.
The Hoosiers now have four 1,000-point scorers on the same team for the first time in program history. Jordan Hulls, who scored 12 Tuesday night, and Christian Watford, who also had 12 against Michigan State, both have more than 1,000 points in their careers.
"For Cody to do that in two years is nothing short of remarkable," Crean said. "Cody is not just a scorer. Look at the way he shot the ball, he's constantly improving. … Cody is so much more than any type of big man or any type of scorer. He facilitates so much. He creates so much attention from the defense, and he's so willing to find his teammates. If he was hung up on scoring, he might of gone for 1,000 a while back. But because he's hung up on winning, those things happen naturally."
- Indiana was 1-18 in the Breslin Center before Tuesday night's victory.
- Tuesday was the third matchup of top-four teams in college basketball this season, and the second for Indiana, which beat then top-ranked Michigan. It was just the fourth with a pair of Big Ten teams since 1997.
- Tuesday's game was the first time two top-five teams played in the Breslin Center.
- Harris led Michigan State with 19 points, and Adreian Payne scored 17.
- Spartans guard Keith Appling, who only had 3 points in Michigan State's 75-70 loss at Indiana on Jan. 27, only had 6 points Tuesday. Appling averages a team-high 14.1 points.
"For Indiana to come in on this night, with the crowd as good as it was and the national audience, I think that speaks volumes of them. They deserve the credit."
– Michigan State coach Tom Izzo