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02/08/2013 9:37 AM EST
Illini buzzer-beater upsets No. 1 Hoosiers, 74-72
ILLINOIS 74, INDIANA 72

By DAVID MERCER
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- At this rate, no one will want to be No.
1.



Indiana became the fifth straight top-ranked men's college
basketball team to lose, falling to unranked Illinois 74-72 on a
buzzer-beater by Tyler Griffey on Thursday night.



The senior forward took an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds to
play and made a wide-open layup. And, just like that, the
Hoosiers - who moved into the top spot by beating then-No. 1
Michigan just a few days ago - went down.



Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team has been No. 1 for a total
of seven weeks this season after opening there, doesn't know why
the top spot is suddenly so hard to hang on to.



"I can't answer that. I'm not sure," Crean said. "I just know
that these games are 40-minute games. We played at a high level
for most of the game."



The Hoosiers (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) were in charge until the final
3 1/2 minutes when the Illini (16-8, 3-7 Big Ten) 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."



Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls said flatly that the top rank had
nothing to do with Thursday's loss, even for a team that some
worried might be looking past unranked, slumping Illinois to a
meeting Sunday with No. 10 Ohio State.



"We just didn't execute when we needed to," he said.



If Indiana falls from No. 1 on Monday, No. 2 Florida might not
be a candidate to replace the Hoosiers after the Gators' loss
this week to Arkansas. That could put No. 3 Michigan back on top
if they can make it to Monday without a loss.



For the Hoosiers, nothing could have been worse than the way
Thursday's game ended.



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 hundreds of students onto the court, though they
waited as officials checked the replay to make sure the clock
hadn't beaten Griffey. Once the basket was upheld, 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 eight of 11 and fallen to 10th in the
12-team Big Ten.



Griffey, who had struggled as bad as any Illini player, seemed
surprised at how easily the winning shot came.



"I just made a simple curl cut and left two 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 didn't communicate," he said.



Indiana's loss drops them into a three-way tie for first in the
Big Ten with Michigan and Michigan State. The win moves the
Illini up into a ninth-place tie with Iowa but, more
importantly, provides a potential lifeline ahead of 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 said.



Illinois also added a plank to what may 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. But coming into Thursday night, the Illini had
already beaten three teams now in the top 15: No. 6 Gonzaga, No.
10 Ohio State and No. 14 Butler.



Before Thursday, Illinois hadn't beaten a No. 1 team since a win
over Wake Forest in 2004.



Richardson had 23 points for Illinois, Paul had 21 and Griffey
finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.



Zeller led Indiana with 14 points, while Will Sheehey had 13,
Watford 12 and Hulls 11.



Indiana shot 50 percent from the field (25 of 50), 52.9 percent
from 3-point range (9 of 17) and 93 percent from the free throw
line (13 of 14). The Hoosiers led by an eight- to 10-point
margin for most of the second half.



When 6-foot-11 Nnanna Egwu fouled out with just under 5 minutes
to play, Indiana appeared in control. Watford made both free
throws and, at 69-59, the Illini looked done.



But Richardson went on a one-man run, first burying back-to-back
3-pointers and then hitting a midrange jumper on the run to tie
it at 70 with 1:17 to play.



With the clock under 30 seconds and the game tied at 72, Indiana
had the ball for what would have been a last shot but Victor
Oladipo coughed up the ball. Richardson picked it up and tried a
breakaway layup that Oladipo just swatted out of bounds to set
up the final play.



Groce credited Richardson for providing a spark.



"I thought he was absolutely terrific on both ends of the
floor," Groce said. "He battled, he fought."



Griffey was benched several weeks ago after a blowout loss at
Wisconsin. On a team that had lost its shooting touch, the
senior forward had especially struggled. And, though one of
Illinois' bigger players at 6-9, he wasn't adding much to the
inside presence the Illini desperately needed.



Groce said that, even after he benched Griffey, he never gave up
on him.



"I just have told him numerous times here I believe in him," the
first-year Illinois coach said. "I do."

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