Will Sheehey (left) had a career high 22 points as Indiana defeated Purdue, 83-55, Saturday.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – The first thing most people want to check after a basketball game is a box score. Not me. I want to see a birth certificate.
No matter what Indiana University says, I'm starting to believe that Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey are twins.
Listen to me on this one. They arrived at IU together nearly three years ago in Tom Crean's third Hoosier recruiting class. Neither was ranked among the top 100 recruits in the nation. The top programs refused to waste postage on Sheehey and Oladipo. Forget McDonald's all-Americans. They weren't even peanut butter and jelly all-Americans.
There have roomed together. Oladipo can play on the perimeter or in the post. Sheehey can play in the post or on the perimeter. Oladipo can make three-point shots. Sheehey can, too. Oladipo plays with an edge and loves to defend. Sheehey plays with a more visible edge and embraces getting into a defensive stance, pumping his fist when a whistle goes his way.
"He is so locked in to helping his teammates that he literally could run our walk-through (practices) on the mornings before games," Crean said.
Here's the decisive evidence: Oladipo rolled his left ankle late in the first half of the Hoosiers' rivalry game against Purdue in Assembly Hall Saturday.
Guess who filled his spot and led the Hoosiers to an 83-55 victory by scoring career-high 22 points?
"The more minutes I get, the more opportunities I get and the more I'm going to try to stay aggressive," Sheehey said. "That's how it should be for everyone."
Sheehey even took his Oladipo impersonation to absurd levels by focusing on playing efficient basketball. He took nine shots. He made nine shots. They weren't all dunks or layups. Two were three-point shots. Not even Oladipo had done that.
Of course, neither had Calbert Cheaney, Scott May or Steve Alford. Nobody at IU had. Put Sheehey in the Indiana record book for the first nine-for-nine performance in IU history.
"I missed three free throws that were not very good," Sheehey said.
Chances are that Crean and his teammates will forgive him. Mark it down as the first time in the 200-game in-state rivalry that the Hoosiers have beaten the Boilermakers in consecutive games by 20 or more. It was 37 in West Lafayette last month and 28 on Saturday. It's only the third time since 1976 that IU has defeated Purdue four straight.
Not all of the attention was on Sheehey's stirring performance or the way Christian Watford limited Purdue center A.J. Hammons to six points (none in the first half) or Cody Zeller's 19 points for IU.
Oladipo is injured. He rolled his left ankle late in the first half while rushing back on defense. He knelt on the baseline, re-tied his sneakers and appeared as if he planned to keep playing.
Dr. Larry Rink, one of IU's team doctors, had a different idea. Oladipo went to the locker room and stayed there until nearly three minutes had been played in the second half. Oladipo rode an exercise bike for several minutes, huddled with Crean, Dr. Rink and trainer Tim Garl – and then watched the second half from the bench. Crean didn't want to use him, especially with Indiana comfortably ahead.
Crean said it was "wishful thinking," to say that Oladipo was certain to play at Michigan State Tuesday night. About an hour after the game, Oladipo was sitting in the bleachers, chatting and laughing with Watford's father. Maurice Creek, one of Oladipo's best friends, said he believed his teammate was fine.
Zeller and Sheehey acted as if they believed Oladipo would play in East Lansing when the Hoosiers (11-2) play Michigan State for the Big Ten lead.
Both joked about what they were thinking when they discovered Oladipo would not play in the second half.
"I'd beat him in deflections," Zeller said. "I'm pretty proud of that."
"I got excited," Sheehey said. "I got to play a little more."
Play splendidly, in fact. Remember that Sheehey started seven games as a freshman and 11 more last season, moving into the starting lineup after Verdell Jones suffered a knee injury in the Big Ten Tournament.
As critical as Zeller has been to bringing this Indiana program out of basement and into first place, Oladipo and Sheehey were the guys who changed the competitive edge a year earlier. There's a reason they were nicknamed, "Shee-ladipo." As competitors, they're twins.
This season, Oladipo separated himself as a player, moving into the national player of the year discussion by averaging nearly 15 points and six rebounds while leading Indiana with 59 steals.
But for at least one night Sheehey showed that he can be fearless and a ferocious force, too.
"I had no idea he scored that many points," Crean said. "He's got the edge, the personality. He has completely bought into the fact that he is a quality starter guy coming off the bench and understands what the game is giving him when goes in."