College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, January 5, 2012
Tom Crean is building a champion at Indiana.
Crean's 12th-ranked Hoosiers won for the third time this season over a ranked opponent with a 73-71 home win over #16 Michigan, improving their record to 14-1 and 2-1 in the Big Ten.
The Hoosiers, already victorious over then-#1 Kentucky and #2 Ohio State, are becoming a force to reckon with both inside and out of the rugged Big Ten conference. Thursday night's win over the Wolverines was a testament to the power of their inside-outside game, wherein forwards Cody Zeller and Christian Watford dominated inside, scoring 18 and 25 points, respectively, with Watford grabbing high-scorer honors for the game. Watford also grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists.
Indiana led for most of the game, taking a 39-32 lead into the break, but the Wolverines fought back in the second half to tie the game and briefly lead in the final moments, but Zeller and Watford were simply too much to handle and the Hoosiers held on for the win.
Watford, a 6'9" junior forward from Alabama, hit on eight of 11 shots from the field and had three 3-pointers in four attempts, while freshman Zeller - who's older brother Tyler plays for the North Carolina Tar Heels - was eight for 10 and displayed moves in the paint that belied his tender age.
The Hoosiers finished last season with nine straight losses and did not play in any post-season tournaments past the Big Ten. This season, with the addition of Zeller as a complement to Watford inside, they appear to have their sights set on a lengthy run beyond the regular season.