LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Indiana University basketball team had played its way to where only snapshots matter for the rest of this season.
Snapshots like Romeo Langford hitting a game-winning shot at 0.8 in the second overtime to beat a Top 20 program like Wisconsin.
“I mean, just finally I hit one,” Langford said. “I know the past two times I had it in my hand at the end of the game, it didn't come out as we planned.
“I just learned from mistakes in the past two, settling for a jump shot, and I felt like they couldn't stop me getting to the rim. That's exactly what I did, and I made the shot.”
Small picture stuff is what matters at IU because the Big Picture outlook for the last seven weeks has been that the Hoosiers had played their way from a No. 5 or 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament to a group that isn’t certain it will be invited to the NIT.
That’s the inevitable fallout when a team loses 12 out of 13 games.
That and legitimate and confusing questions about how a squad that beat Marquette by 23 points couldn’t beat anybody for nearly seven weeks, running up a stretch of losing that was significant and historic for this program.
But on Tuesday night in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the snapshot wasn’t about missed free throws, lackluster effort or miserable three-point shooting.
It was about doing something Indiana has not done much over the last two decades — beating Wisconsin, 75-73, in double overtime. After starting 12-2, Indiana has now gone 2-12, improving to .500 with the victory.
The final snapshot was taken at the rim with 0.8 seconds to go. It was a picture of Langford, the former New Albany High School star, taking an inbounds pass from Devonte Green at 9.6 seconds.
Langford caught the ball in the center of the floor, under the Wisconsin basket.
He took seven easy dribbles to get all the way to the top of the key. He waited for teammate Rob Phinisee to approach Kahlil Iverson, the 6-foot-5 senior guard from Wisconsin assigned to stop Langford from doing the thing he does best — drive right along the edge of the lane.
On the seventh dribble Langford switched from his right hand to his left.
Phinisee did not set the screen that Wisconsin expected. He ducked behind Iverson and then scrambled out of the way.
"Rob did a great job," IU coach Archie Miller said. "We asked Rob to come up and interfere a little bit and get out.
"The minute he did that, I thought their guy just flinched just a quick second. And the minute he did it, I knew Romeo's shoulder was going to get by him, just a matter of whether he'd make it or not."
On the eighth dribble, with 3.4 seconds to play, Langford went back to the strong hand, the right hand.
Wisconsin and Iverson were in trouble.
Langford lowered his upper body, like a sprinter emerging from the starting blocks. In full acceleration, he put Iverson on his left hip, dropped his final dribble with 2 seconds to play and took flight.
It was signature Romeo Langford, the kind of move that will result in Langford hearing his name called in the first 10 picks in the NBA Draft next June, despite all the uncertainty caused by Indiana’s uneven season.
He got close enough to the rim that Langford did not worry about Iverson or Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin’s 6-11 center who thought he could block Langford’s shot.
He could not. Nobody could.
Langford took on both defenders, banked home the game-winner and clapped his hands vigorously at the baseline.
“Rob came up to the screen, and they messed up the read on it,” Langford said. “I just (saw) a lane to get to the basket, and that's just what I did.”
Wisconsin had time for a final desperation pass and shot, but the Badgers managed only a pass without a shot.
Indiana’s five-game losing streak was over as the Hoosiers added Wisconsin (No. 19) to Michigan State (No. 6) and Marquette (No. 10) to the list of ranked teams they have beaten in their bizarre, puzzling, injured and underachieving season.
Credit Langford with 22 points, including his first collegiate game winner. He had seven boards. He played 45 of 50 possible minutes.
It was a game that Indiana led by 13 points with 12:40 left in the second half. It was a game they led by three with eight seconds in regulation.
It was a game they also led by three with 15 seconds to play in the first overtime, after Langford made another drive that should have served as the game winner.
Not this Indiana team. It has done few things easily or correctly, while losing six games by five points or less or in overtime.
But on this night the snapshot was not of what Indiana did wrong. It was a picture of Romeo Langford making a game-winner.
They return to Assembly Hall Saturday for another game with Michigan State before finishing the Big Ten regular season against Illinois (away) and Rutgers (home) next week.
“It is a confidence booster,” said Phinisee. “We just have to build off that, take it one game at a time and bring it for Michigan State Saturday.”
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