At this rate, nobody will wish to be No. 1.
Indiana became the 5th straight top-ranked men’s college basketball team to lose, falling to unranked Illinois 74-72 on a buzzer-beater by Tyler Griffey.
The senior forward took an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds to play and made a wide-open layup. And, just like that, the Indiana Hoosiers- who moved into the lead spot by beating then-No. 1 Michigan only one or two days ago – went down.
Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team has been No. One for an overall total of 7 weeks this season after opening there doesn’t know why the top spot is suddenly so hard to hold on to.
”I can’t answer that. I am not sure,” Crean claimed. ”I just know that these games are 40-minute games. We played at a high level for most of the game.”
The Indiana Hoosiers (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) were in charge until the last 3 1/2 minutes when the Illini (16-8, 3-7 Big 10) finally put together a run to take and then retake the lead.
”I know this: When we turn the ball over, we’re not very good,” Crean said. ”And the biggest difference tonight was 28 points off turnovers to our 16.” NFL scores
With 0.9 seconds, Griffey left defenders Cody Zeller and Christian Watford behind on an inbounds play from the baseline, took the pass from Brandon Paul and delivered the uncontested buzzer-beater.
The shot sent lots of students onto the court; though they waited as officials checked the replay to be sure the clock hadn’t beaten Griffey. Once the basket was defended, Paul and fellow guard D.J. Richardson hugged and teared up in relief.
Illinois had endured an awful run since starting 12-0. The Illini had since lost 8 of 11 and fallen to 10th in the 12-team Big 10.
Griffey, who had struggled as bad as any Illini player, seemed stunned at how easily the winning shot came.
”I just made a simple curl cut and left 2 guys behind me, and Brandon got off a heck of a pass,” he said. ”Zeller and Watford were both right in front of me and just kind of stayed there.”
Crean said the play was a lot like the other breakdowns in the Hoosiers’ game that let Illinois climb back from a 12-point halftime deficit.
”We did not communicate,” he revealed.
Indiana’s loss drops them into a 3-way tie for 1st in the Big Ten with Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State. The win moves the Illini up into a 9th-place tie with Iowa but, more importantly, gives a potential lifeline before a meeting Sunday at No. 18 Minnesota.
”It was good to get back to having that toughness and togetherness and trust that we needed,” Illinois coach John Groce related.
Illinois also added a plank to what might be one of the oddest resumes of any team in the country trying to make the NCAA tournament. Illinois has lost to Purdue, Northwestern and twice to Wisconsin.