This game had all the makings of a rout.
Georgia, decidedly an underdog, had dropped its two preliminary games of the Legends Classic—first at home to Youngstown State and again at Stegemen Coliseum to Southern Miss in overtime—before stumbling into the preset semifinals in Brooklyn.
Then, at least for one half against the nation’s top-rated team, the Bulldogs unexpectedly look like they belonged. The kicker? Their one lottery talent had almost nothing to do with their success.
Georgia nursed a one-point lead at the break over No. 1 Indiana despite the Bulldogs’ lone star, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, hitting just two shots in the first half. The slumping Caldwell-Pope finished with 14 points on a poor shooting night—he shot just 4 of 15 from the floor—as the Dawgs threatened to pull the upset of the early season. Too bad for them Indiana wasn’t willing to cooperate.
The Hoosiers, dealing with problems involving their own star, used a 19-4 run midway through the second half to turn a four-point deficit into a commanding 11-point lead, which they parlayed into a 66-53 win in the semifinals of the Legends Classic.
Indiana did most of its damage without preseason national player of the year Cody Zeller, who spent most of the first half—11 minutes in all—on the bench because of foul trouble. Zeller scored just six points (2-4 FG) on the night while pulling down only four rebounds. His time on the bench, where he fought through coughs and other flu-like symptoms, allowed the 7-footer to better appreciate the Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls show.
Oladipo provided the spark and Hulls the dagger as the Hoosiers, armed with five players capable of taking over a game on any given night, rode the energy of No. 4 and the hot-shooting of No. 1 to finish off the pesky Dawgs. Oladipo’s scoring burst and work on the glass, where Indiana held a 35-21 rebounding advantage as a team, changed the tide of the game. Then Hulls’ 3-point shooting spree—he hit four of his six on the game, including his final three in the second half—allowed the Hoosiers to pad their lead.
Christian Watford chipped in 14 points and freshman Yogi Ferrell, despite only hitting one shot from the field, ran the offense well. But the night belonged foremost to a pair of secondary scorers who proved, in Cody Zeller’s absence, they can be primary scoring options in a pinch.
The Hoosiers aren’t the No. 1 team in the country strictly because of one player. If there’s anything to take away from Indiana’s skittish effort against a bad Georgia team, let it be that.