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Albom: Oladipo clearly best player
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On February 20, 2013 @ 2:57 am In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Mitch Albom, USA TODAY Sports
EAST LANSING — With less than 50 seconds left, the ball came off the rim and Denzel Valentine watched it, like everyone watching at home and almost everyone inside the building.
Almost everyone — except the man Valentine was supposed to be guarding, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, who, while the entire free world was captivated by the action, zoomed down the baseline and leapt perfectly to tap the ball in.
It gave the Hoosiers a lead they would not lose.
“The killer,” as coach Tom Izzo put it.
Indiana 72, Michigan State 68. I am pretty sure the better team won, but I’m dead certain the best player won it for them. Oladipo, the son of Nigerian parents and the envy of every college coach in America, was smarter, faster, smarter, more athletic, smarter, cooler and smarter than the rest. You look to every key moment in this hugely hyped game, and he was there.
After MSU finally grabbed the lead deep into the second half, Oladipo stole the ball and wound up slamming it home to take the lead back.
After that tip-in the final minute, Oladipo broke free on a crucial inbounds play, took a baseball pass and slammed it in for a 70-67 edge.
When MSU deliberately missed a free throw in hopes of a put-back with 4 seconds left — Oladipo grabbed the defensive rebound.
And when he was fouled, he made both free throws — something the Spartans couldn’t do when it counted.
“He’s got unbelievable heart,” Izzo said, gushing about the Indiana kid the way he gushes about his own. Then again, when one guy drops 19 points, nine rebounds, five steals and a block on you — gushing is appropriate.
It didn’t help that while Oladipo was Playing Big, several of Izzo’s guys opted for Playing Invisible. Derrick Nix, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson were so ineffective in the first half, you weren’t sure if they were out there or at home. Nix and Appling had some redeeming moments in the second half, but against Indiana, No. 1 in the nation, you need all cylinders from the opening gun.
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