After dominating in the second round, the top- seeded Indiana Hoosiers take aim at another opponent in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament, when they collide with the ninth-seeded Temple Owls at UD Arena on Sunday.
After a sizzling first half, Temple cooled off a bit but still managed to hang on to knock off NC State, 76-72, in its second-round matchup to advance. The Owls have become rather comfortable in the NCAA Tournament as they are one of eight teams (Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, Michigan State and Wisconsin) making their sixth straight appearance in the event. However the win over NC State was just their second victory in the tourney during that stretch.
Any hopes James Madison had of being the first No. 16 seed to top a No. 1 seed were quickly dashed by Indiana on Friday. The Hoosiers rolled to an easy 83-62 victory in the contest to bounce back from a 68-56 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The Hoosiers are making their 37th appearance in the event (sixth most all-time) and have a 63-31 record. Indiana was one of several teams to spend time at the No. 1 spot in the national rankings this season, including its perch at the top in the first six weeks of the year.
In nine all-time meetings the Owls have captured five wins over the Hoosiers. The winner of this contest will move on to face either fourth-seeded Syracuse or 12th-seeded California in the Sweet 16.
Yet again Khalif Wyatt threw the Owls on his back to push them past an opponent. The senior guard poured in a game-high 31 points and nailed a number of clutch free throws down the stretch to help the Owls hold on for the win over the Wolfpack. Temple led 59-47 with 6:02 remaining but a 13-4 run from the Wolfpack cut that to just three points. NC State never got closer until Lorenzo Brown hit a long two-pointer with two seconds left to make the score 74-72. Wyatt then got the ball on the inbounds pass, was fouled and sank the two free throws that finally put NC State away.
Wyatt (20.2 ppg, 4.1 apg) is the heart and soul of the Temple attack as he leads the team in scoring. Wyatt was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year this season and really shines under the spotlight, like when he poured in 33 points to upset Syracuse earlier in the campaign. Scootie Randall (11.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is the second scoring option on most occasions but had a quiet effort against NC State with just five points. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (9.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.4 apg) brings a ton of energy and is extremely versatile, while Jake O'Brien (9.6 ppg) has to be defended on the perimeter, as he showed by netting 18 points on 4-of-6 from 3-point range on Friday.
It was a rather workman-like effort for Indiana in its win over James Madison. The Hoosiers connected on 52.7 percent of their shots from the field and had a 38-28 edge on the boards, while holding the Dukes to 41.9 percent shooting. Freshman Kevin Ferrell took a rare turn as the team's top offensive option as he netted a team-high 16 points.
The Hoosiers' strength on both ends of the floor this season as made them a team very few opponents can match up with. They are a top-10 team in both scoring (80.1) and field-goal percentage (.487), while holding foes to 62.4 points per game on 39.1 percent shooting. A pair of Naismith Player of the Year candidates pace the Hoosiers in Cody Zeller (16.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Victor Oladipo (13.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Zeller was the favorite for the award coming into the year and posted a strong season, but it was Oladipo that took the college basketball world by storm with his athletic ability and versatility. Christian Watford (12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is another strong scorer for the Hoosiers, while Jordan Hulls' shooting from long range has been valuable as well.