Victor Oladipo scored six points in the final 45 seconds as Indiana defeated Michigan State, 72-68, Tuesday night.
EAST LANSING, Mich. (WDRB) – In the beginning it was simply a provocative way to start a college basketball debate:
Who's the player of the year?
Victor Oladipo of Indiana.
The attention span of the college basketball nation lasts about six seconds. People were becoming bored with Trey Burke, Mason Plumlee, Cody Zeller, Russ Smith and the other early candidates.
Why not go with that other kid from Indiana, the one with all the vowels tucked in his last name, the guy with the soaring vertical, the guy who grabbed the microphone and sang at IU's opening practice?
It's not a joke, a stretch or talk-show hyperbole to say that Oladipo belongs in the player of the year conversation any more. I don't care if he is averaging fewer than 15 points per game or that the recruiting services thought that IU coach Tom Crean was reaching when he recruited him out of DeMatha High School more than three years ago.
I can't imagine anybody has delivered a more dynamic, punishing or critical 68 seconds of play than Victor Oladipo delivered in Indiana's stirring 72-68 victory over Michigan State in the Breslin Center Tuesday night.
"Oladipo made every big play when he needed to," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "He was phenomenal. Oladipo is just a refuse to lose guy."
Oladipo really does have a remarkable voice. And he sang a 68-second Refuse To Lose Sonata Tuesday night – saving his absolute best for last on a night when he had 19 points, nine rebounds and five steals on a tender left ankle that he had sprained only three days earlier.
This is how it went: defensive rebound in traffic, soaring offensive rebound, deft tip-in, run-out crowd-deflating dunk, defensive rebound, free throw, free throw, swish, swish, jump into the arms of teammate Remy Abell to celebrate winning a game that Indiana was not supposed to win.
That doesn't capture how daunting the situation was considering the Breslin Center leads the league in hostility, with students howling from every angle. And that Indiana had given up an eight-point lead. And that the Hoosiers were trailing, 67-66, when the Oladipo Magic began.
"His maturity and toughness went up another notch," Crean said. "There is no way that he felt good and there is no way he had the normal level of conditioning, but he has such mental toughness."
Tougher than a jackhammer -- and more relentless.
Oladipo even splashed in a touch of history. His tip-in of a missed shot by Yogi Ferrell that put Indiana ahead 68-67 with 43 seconds to play gave Oladipo over 1,000 points in his IU career. Zeller, IU's sophomore center, scored his 1,000th point earlier in the game..
Oladipo's points are legit. The guy is a 6-foot-5 wing who is shooting the kind of percentage than Bill Walton shot during his Hall of Fame career at UCLA, when he shot 66 percent as a senior. Oladipo is pressing 64 percent. Centers do that. Wings don't.
Considering that Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls were already 1,000-point guys, mark it down as the first time the Hoosiers have ever had four 1,000-point guys on the same team. Consider it another sign of the wonderful brick-by-brick work Crean has done of resurrecting this program that is now pointing towards its first Big Ten regular season title since the Hoosiers won a share of it in 2002.
Crean said he never asked Oladipo if his ankle was hurting. He didn't have to. The coach has been around Oladipo for three seasons. He knew the ankle was tender. Oladipo never considered sitting – or even asking out of the game.
"He wasn't going to sit out this game," Indiana guard Jordan Hulls said.
"There was no question (he was playing)," Oladipo said. "Maybe from everybody else. You were going to have to kill me in order for me to miss this game."
By the end of the game, it was Michigan State that wanted to kill him. Spartans center Derrick Nix had made a fool of himself by suggesting before the game that Oladipo was a faux all-American, a guy who was earning too much publicity, a guy who couldn't outplay Michigan State's Branden Dawson.
Izzo did not appreciate that – before the game or after the game. He set the record straight. Izzo called Oladipo the MVP of the Big Ten.
"He's got incredible heart and he just does what he does," Izzo said.
What does Victor Oladipo think when people say he deserves consideration as player of the year?
"It's a blessing," he said.
But should the conversation continue?
"I already know who the player of the year is and it's Cody Zeller," Oladipo said. "There's no question. Without him, we couldn't win.
"Without him, I wouldn't be successful. Nobody here would be successful. Indiana basketball wouldn't be back without Cody Zeller. He's the player of the year in my eyes."
Tom Izzo and a few others would like to have a word with Victor Oladipo about that.