Cody Zeller had a big game when Indiana hosted Michigan in a top five matchup on February 2, 2013.
The 7-foot Zeller had 19 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and he added 10 rebounds and two blocks on the night to help lead IU to an 81-73 win in front of a raucous crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
By any reasonable measure, Zeller was a dominant force as he led the Hoosiers in both scoring and rebounds in front of a prime time ESPN Gameday audience.
Michigan forward and Indiana native Mitch McGary drew the assignment of trying to slow down Zeller on that night.
And McGary walked away with a slightly different take on Zeller’s performance.
The plan was to slow down Zeller with physicality by utilizing McGary’s big 6-foot-10 and 250 pound frame.
In McGary’s mind, the plan worked.
“I wanted to make him (Zeller) shy away from contact, and I think I did that pretty well,” McGary said after the game.
Perhaps recognizing Zeller’s overall impact on the game, McGary pivoted slightly.
Zeller was already well on his way to the double-double at halftime with 11 points and 6 rebounds, but McGary thought that perhaps he was more effective before the break.
“Overall he did pretty well, but I think the physicality got into him a little bit and shook him up a little bit in the first half.”
Zeller did have both of his turnovers in the game before halftime. Perhaps that might have been fueling McGary’s seemingly glass half full memory of what transpired?
But whatever the case, McGary’s post-game comments seemed more than a little off base.
And Zeller noticed.
McGary had a nice game in Bloomington, scoring 10 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. The Chesteron, Ind. product was earning more minutes and gaining recognition.
“McGary is an excellent player,” IU head coach Tom Crean said after the game.
But while he might have earned some accolades on the court that night in Bloomington, McGary’s post-game comments would prove costly.
Michigan and Indiana would meet again six weeks later, and this time the stakes were even higher.
An Indiana win would deliver an outright Big Ten title to Bloomington. A loss, and the crown would be shared with multiple teams — including Michigan.
With No. 2 Indiana trailing No. 7 Michigan 71-66 in Ann Arbor with less than a minute to play, things looked bleak.
And that’s when Zeller took over.
The Hoosier big man put back his own miss to pull IU to within 71-68. After Michigan missed the front end of a one-and-one, Zeller would get fouled on the other end and he hit both shots to pull the Hoosiers to within one, 71-70.
Another missed front end gave IU the ball with a chance to win, and Indiana went right back to Zeller, who caught a nice post pass from Yogi Ferrell and hit a layup for the one point lead, 72-71.
With about :10 seconds remaining and no timeouts, Michigan would have one last chance for the win and a share of the Big Ten title. Trey Burke took the ball up the floor and attacked the basket, but his shot at the rim was way off after a strong challenge by Zeller.
After a put back by Jordan Morgan rolled out the Hoosiers would snare the rebound and claim the outright title.
When asked recently to walk through the closing minute, Zeller first pointed to McGary’s comments in Bloomington as the fuel to his fire.
“Mitch McGary had run his mouth a little bit after the first game” Zeller said. “He said that he felt like he was in my head a little bit and I think that I had like 21 and 11 at our place.
“In Michigan he said that he was definitely going to get the best of me. So I had a little extra motivation.”
Not only did Zeller deliver in the final minute, but once again he produced a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
McGary was nowhere to be found in the rematch. He played just eight minutes and scored just two points.
Interestingly enough, it was McGary’s physicality that cost him in Ann Arbor. He committed four fouls and spent most of the day on the bench.
McGary wasn’t on the floor as Zeller took over the game with six points in the final minute.
As McGary walked off the floor in stunned silence after Michigan gave away a share of a Big Ten title, one had to wonder if perhaps he was shook up a little bit.
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