The Indiana fans chanted, “Ol-a-dipo! Ol-a-dipo!” in the final seconds Sunday at UD Arena. The name rolls off the tongue, and the Hoosiers star gave the crowd plenty of reason to say his name — 16 reasons, in fact, which is fitting for a team heading to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.
Victor Oladipo scored 16 points, but it was his 3-pointer with 15 seconds left that secured a 58-52 victory over Temple in the third round of the NCAA tournament. The top-seeded Hoosiers, like their Big Ten rivals Ohio State in the game before them, escaped from Dayton with clutch play in crunch time.
Oladipo’s shot was part of a 10-0 Indiana run in the final three minutes. The Hoosiers trailed by as many as six points in the second half and didn’t lead until the final two minutes.
“Our guys, in the second half, they never wavered on the belief they could and would win the game,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
Oladipo hit 1-of-2 free throws with 1:19 to play, breaking a 52-52 tie. After a miss by Temple with 47 seconds left, Oladipo hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with the shot clock winding down. It was his first 3-pointer of the game after two misses.
“When the game is in movement and we hit Cody (Zeller) in the post, people get open shots,” said Oladipo, a 6-foot-5 junior guard. “I was just moving without the ball. Cody found me and I was open. I just caught it and shot. I didn’t think about it. I think I struggle when I think about shots.”
The Hoosiers (29-6) will play No. 4 seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Washington. It’s a rematch of the 1987 national championship game won by the Hoosiers. That was their last national title, but this team showed why it’s considered a major contender with two wins in Dayton.
“I don’t want it to end,” Crean said. “I really don’t. I love being around these guys. They’re as smart and cerebral and tough minded of any group I’ve ever been around.”
However, after the game, Crean said his first emotion was relief. It would have been a devastating end to a special season if the Hoosiers had bowed out in the third round.
“It wasn’t like I was walking in the locker room jumping up and down,” he said. “I want them to be excited but also to understand what we’re playing for. There were a lot of different games going on in the game tonight. There was our start. There was the middle of the second half. There was how we ended. There was the middle of the first half. There was the end of the first half. Then there’s how we played in the second half.
“But I’m proud of their maturity because I don’t think an immature team has a chance to win this game. So the maturity that they’ve gained is fantastic.”
Zeller added 15 points for Indiana. Will Sheehey scored 10.
Indiana won despite an incredible performance by Temple senior guard Khalif Wyatt, who matched his second-round effort against N.C. State with 31 points. After Wyatt hit a 3-pointer with 6:31 left, however, to give Temple a 46-43 lead, he scored only two points on free throws the rest of the way.
“I think I was just being aggressive,” he said. “My teammates kept coming to me. (Indiana) was playing good defense. They were denying me the ball when they could. The last six minutes, they made it really, really hard for me to catch the ball.”
Temple nearly won the game despite making only 3-of-24 3-pointers and shooting 34 percent to Indiana’s 42 percent. The Owls (24-10) took 17 more shots than Indiana because they dominated the offensive boards (14-4).
Wyatt and his teammates took a few minutes to get off the court after the loss as they huddled one more time together. Sophomore Will Cummings pulled his jersey over his face, perhaps to hide the tears.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of how this team competed today,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “It’s disappointing we’re not going to be moving on.”
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