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COLUMN

Still No. 1 – Indiana retains top ranking

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Tipoff: Nebraska at Indiana, 7 p.m. Wednesday
RADIO: 1250-AM
TV: BTN

Online: For more on Indiana athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Hoosiers hold off Duke in AP poll

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 11:15 am

Did you see this coming? Did you figure Indiana would break the string of No. 1 teams dropping out of the top spot by losing?

Check that. The Hoosiers topped the rankings by losing because, when it mattered most, they won.

Big.

IU's 81-68 victory at Ohio State on Sunday left a big voter impression. Well, big enough for the Hoosiers (21-3) to remain No. 1 despite last Thursday's are-you-kidding-me loss at Illinois.

Duke (21-2), which barely edged Boston College on Sunday night, jumped two spots to second with 20 first-place votes. Miami of Florida, the hottest team in America with 10 straight victories, including blowout wins over Duke and North Carolina, had 17 first-place votes and went from eighth to third, its highest ranking in school history.

The Hoosiers were helped by an upset-heavy week. Four top-five teams lost, as did six of the top 10. Those defeats, combined with Indiana's dominating performance, made the difference.

By staying No. 1, IU ended a run of five straight weeks of a change at the top. That's two weeks short of the record set during the 1993-94 season.

Duke (twice), Louisville and Michigan all had been No. 1 before Indiana got it back a week ago.

Not everyone agreed. In the USA Today coaches' poll, IU dropped to No. 2 behind Duke. The Hoosiers got six first-place votes to Duke's 18.

You could argue that IU found the toughness to thrive at Ohio State because of the Illinois loss. The Hoosiers blew a nine-point lead with just over three minutes left. Sometimes you need a kick in the you-know-what to find motivation and resolve.

Coach Tom Crean provided that kick during the practices that followed, partly by showing -- repeatedly -- the closing minutes of the Illinois game, mostly by working on improvement and understanding.

The Ohio State performance demonstrated the players got the message.

“Ohio State is really, really good,” Crean said. “We have at times not had the firepower to be able to compete with them, and then last year as we were getting better, we didn't have the toughness to compete with them (in Columbus).

“But that is all part of the growth process, and they're growing with that and it's a big deal.”

Perhaps the biggest deal at Ohio State, beside getting the ball inside to Cody Zeller and Christian Watford, was cutting down the turnovers. The Hoosiers had just 10 against the Buckeyes, six fewer than they had against Illinois and Michigan.

“We were coming off two games where the opponents had scored a total of 48 points off of turnovers, which is unacceptable,” Crean said. “It's one thing to be unacceptable to a coach. It's a whole other thing when it is unacceptable and owned by the team. I think they've done that.”

Because they did, the Hoosiers are still No. 1. And with home games this week against Nebraska on Wednesday and Purdue on Saturday, they're like to stay there for a while.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.