Victor Oladipo had his Player of the Year moment on Sunday afternoon.
With the entire country watching and Hoosier nation on edge, Oladipo delivered the game-deciding three-pointer to hold off Temple, 58-52, in Dayton, Ohio.
An hour or so later, Oladipo was announced as one of the four finalists for the Naismith College Player of the Year award (per College Basketball Talk). We sportswriters are a reactive bunch, and Oladipo may have just won the award with that shot. However, he may have won his team the game on the other end of the floor.
Oladipo helped hold Temple star Khalif Wyatt without a field goal after he made a three with 6:30 left. Wyatt is the most unguardable player in college basketball because he takes and makes shots that most players only attempt in their driveway.
The Hoosiers learned this firsthand, as Wyatt scored in just about every way imaginable on his way to 29 points in the first 27 minutes, 30 seconds of the game.
Then Oladipo did what he makes him so valuable even when he's not scoring: He took away Temple's only chance.
Oladipo not only took away Wyatt's scoring, he took away his shots. Wyatt got off just two shots and got to the line once for a pair of free throws after his final three.
Until that stretch, Oladipo's Player of the Year push had hit a wall. He'd averaged 11.4 points in his last seven games and Indiana lost three of those contests.
The way to beat the Hoosiers is to slow the pace and take away Cody Zeller and Oladipo's chances to wow in transition. And Oladipo has wowed this season. He had the almost-dunk of the year. He's blocked shots like LeBron James as a trailer defender. And his energy and his name have made him the most lovable guy in college basketball.
Temple took away that wow factor by putting the ball in Wyatt's hands and slowing the game, using the Bo Ryan strategy with just one man.
So Oladipo hunkered down and went to work down the stretch. He helped the Hoosiers figure out a way to win playing the way they absolutely don't want to play.
Oladipo's final line of 16 points and eight rebounds might not compare to the numbers that Trey Burke or Doug McDermott put up. But the junior guard's emergence as a late bloomer to help turn IU's program around makes him a great story.
We sportswriters like good stories. We appreciate big moments. And now that Victor Oladipo has had his, the Hoosiers' season is still alive and he's the favorite to win the Naismith and Wooden awards.
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