March 17, 2012
Hoosiers through to Sweet 16
By Richard Zussman, QMI Agency
The state known for basketball’s greatest Cinderella story stopped one of the NCAA tournament’s biggest surprises. The
No. 4 seeded Indiana Hoosiers got in the way of Virginia Commonwealth’s run to a second straight Final Four appearance with a 63-61 win Saturday.
It has been a season of sweet redemption for the Hoosiers. After the program crumbled in 2007 and finished the 2010-11 season with nine straight losses, the Hoosiers are now just two wins away from the first Final Four appearance in 10 years for its historic program.
Will Sheehey added his name Saturday along with the likes of Keith Smart and Tom Cloverdale for hitting clutch shots for the Hoosiers. Sheehey nailed a 15-footer on the baseline with 12.7 points left to give Indiana the lead at 63-61. It wasn’t done just yet, though. Rob Brandenberg had a great opportunity to keep VCU’s hot streak alive, but missed an open three pointer as time expired.
It was a back and forth affair from the tip-off, with Indiana often playing catch up to the hot shooting Rams in the first half. Christian Watford led all scorers with 16 points, including eight points in a row to finish the first half. Freshman Cody Zeller also chipped in 16 points and hauled in 13 rebounds.
The game was a story of two halves. Both teams were hot shooting the basketball in the first half. At one point Indiana knocked down eight straight field goals. Heading into the half, VCU led 42-41. Then it went cold. Both teams struggled through out the final 20 minutes, with Indiana finally prevailing with 22 second-half point to VCU’s 19.
The Rams led by as many as nine points in the second half, but went cold when they needed it most. March has been kind to the Rams. The No. 12 seed picked up a win Thursday over Wichita State to go with its run to the Final Four a season ago.
Brandon Burgess, the only remaining starter from last season, led the team in scoring Saturday with 15 points, 12 coming in the first half.
SWEET GEORGIA REMATCH
The Hoosiers’ win sets up another date with the No. 1- ranked Kentucky Wildcats. The two iconic programs will face off in Atlanta for the second time this season. Indiana shot its way back into basketball prominence with an upset win in December, beating the ’Cats 73-72. Christian Watford hit a buzzer beating three to hand Kentucky its only lose of the regular season.
The Big Ten is proving to the country where the best basketball is played. Wisconsin booked the third ticket for the conference, joining Indiana and Ohio State in the Sweet 16 Saturday with a thrilling 60-57 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Wisconsin needed all of Jared Berggren’s 6-foot- 10 frame in the closing seconds of the game. The Commodores, needing a three pointer to tie, couldn’t get a shot off after Berggren deflected the inbound pass with his outstretched arms. It was defence all the way along that propelled the Badgers to victory. They held SEC all-star John Jenkins to just 13 points of 3-13 shooting.
But Jenkins did have a chance to play hero. With less than 15 seconds to play, the sharpshooter had the ball in his hands with his team trailing 59-57. Jenkins fired a three-point try that was long which would have given his team the lead. Wisconsin stifled the Commodores shooters all evening, keeping them to just five three-point field goals. Wisconsin gave up just 52.8 points per game coming into the matchup.
Rebounding also came in handy Saturday for the Badgers. In the final minute they hustled for a pair of offensive rebounds. Berggren hauled down a Ryan Evans miss with 46 seconds to go and then Josh Grasser grabbed a key board with less than 20 seconds left in the ball game. Gasser was hooked up to an IV earlier in the day after waking up sick.
Jordan Taylor led the Badgers with 14 points and Berggren added to his good defence with 12 points. The victory means Bo Ryan will head to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time as the Badgers head coach.
THREE POINT BONANZA
The Badgers fired an incredible 33 three-point shots against Vandy. They connected on 10 of the long-range bombs, with Jordan Taylor and Ben Brust both connecting on three. The shoot-and-chase style for the Badgers may bode well for the No. 4 seed in the East next weekend. Awaiting them in Boston will be the Syracuse Orange. The No. 1
seed, famous for the 3-2 zone defence, has been susceptible to teams that shoot the three ball well.