BLOOMINGTON – With 9:10 left on the clock and another impressive victory within reach, Will Sheehey stepped to the fore with two plays that swung the game for Indiana.
Just as No. 22 Ohio State crawled back, Sheehey drove baseline and dished to Evan Gordon for a 3-pointer. A possession later, Sheehey drilled one of his own.
An amped-up Assembly Hall could hardly believe the scoreboard: Indiana 54, Ohio State 47.
Just as Sheehey has turned his season around, so, too, have the Hoosiers, who won another game they weren’t supposed to win with a 72-64 victory over the Buckeyes before 17,472 on Sunday afternoon.
It didn’t even matter that Noah Vonleh sat out due to left foot inflammation.
We’re clicking on all cylinders right now, said Sheehey, who had 19 points and six rebounds. I’m taking good shots. I knew eventually they would start falling for me. (Assistant strength coach) Seth Cooper says, regression to the mean.’
Less than 72 hours earlier on Thursday night, the Hoosiers bounced back from a seven-point deficit in the second half to beat No. 20 Iowa 93-86. Sheehey recorded a career-high 30 points.
Just like they did then, the Hoosiers fed off Sheehey’s emotion and energy, and the crowd followed suit, helping Indiana steal the momentum for all the important stretches of the game.
Sheehey did important work late but also started hot. He scored 10 points in a game-changing run that saw Indiana outscore the Buckeyes 21-5 to lead 33-25 at halftime.
A variety of players filled in for Vonleh in a variety of ways, but no player’s recent contributions have meant more than Sheehey’s. The guy who has seen it all in his four years in Bloomington is trying to close his career in style.
We have been through so much that had nothing to do with basketball, Indiana coach Tom Crean said. He is a special young man. Will’s been making big shots. He’s really good. Every once in a while people forget it. I care when he forgets it.
The Hoosiers (17-12, 7-9 Big Ten) now claim home victories over Ohio State (22-8, 9-8), Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5), Iowa (20-9, 9-7) and Michigan (21-7, 13-3), each among the league’s best.
Sheehey did not dismiss talk of the Big Dance afterward, saying that if the Hoosiers win their last two games and make a run in the conference tournament, they would have an impressive résumé.
For now, Sheehey’s teammates are grinning ear-to-ear over his hot streak.
His talk before the game in the huddle was great, said Yogi Ferrell, who scored 20 points. He’s pretty much carried us both games and with energy in practice. That’s what a senior leader does.
Teammates learned Saturday that Vonleh, a center averaging 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds, would miss the game with a nagging injury. Crean said Vonleh’s foot flared up and that the freshman of the year frontrunner is likely day-to-day for the foreseeable future.
Jeremy Hollowell started for Vonleh, and Devin Davis, Jeff Howard and Hanner Mosquera-Perea also spent time in the middle. Those four combined for 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
It shows the grittiness of our team, Mosquera-Perea said. Noah’s out, everybody stepped up to the challenge.
In another sign of maturation, Indiana has won these last two in very different ways, a fun-to-watch shootout with up-and-down Iowa and this grinder with Ohio State, a defensive juggernaut.
Our guys are finally starting to feel a groove, Sheehey said.