BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana coach Tom Crean took a gamble yesterday.
After instructing his team to play with toughness and intelligence, he asked the mother of injured player Maurice Creek to give a surprise pregame pep talk.
The Hoosiers responded with an emotional, determined effort, breaking a 61-61 tie with a 3-point play from Jeremiah Rivers with 1:12 to go and overcame their biggest weakness - free-throw shooting - to hold off Michigan 71-65.
"It's obvious there are 18, 19 points missing and those abilities are not there," Crean said. "What's not obvious is how much they like him [Creek]. There's going to be enough emotion without the coach trying to provide it. She was caught off guard, but I thought it was something we needed to do."
Crean wasn't sure how his team would react in its first game without Creek, the Hoosiers' top scorer and one of the nation's best freshmen.
The 6-foot-5 guard fractured his left knee during Monday's victory, had surgery Tuesday and is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Yesterday, the Hoosiers (7-6, 1-0 Big Ten) were back on the same playing floor trying to replace Creeks' 16.4 points per game and confidence.
The Hoosiers didn't miss a step.
Verdell Jones led Indiana with 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Freshman Christian Watford had 19 points, while Devan Dumes and Jordan Hulls each scored 11.
Indiana's defense was even better. It limited the Wolverines (6-6, 0-1) to 39.3 percent shooting, kept top scorers Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims under their season averages and repeatedly drew fouls on drives to the basket.
The result would have made Creek proud.
The Hoosiers won their first Big Ten game since Feb. 4, snapped a four-game home losing streak to conference foes, won their first conference opener on New Year's Eve since 1938 and took down a Michigan team that rallied from a 20-point deficit last season at Assembly Hall.
Afterward, the Hoosiers raised their arms, waved to the crowd and hugged near midcourt.
Crean even took the microphone to thank the crowd.
"It feels really good, especially for the older guys. It's a little bit of payback for last year," Jones said. "I think the pressure is off us now and we can play our game."
Indiana finished December with its second win over a big-name opponent, having beaten Pittsburgh earlier this month in New York City, and if it continues to play this way, more could be on the way.
Michigan was led by Zack Novak with 18 points and Stu Douglass with 16.
The Wolverines have lost six of nine after starting 3-0.
"To lose that game, I think, will teach us very valuable lessons about the little things," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "This is Big Ten basketball. This is the way it's going to be every night when you're at home or on the road."
Michigan led early only to see Indiana go on a 15-0 run that gave it a 29-21 lead late in the first half.
The Wolverines spent nearly 27 minutes trying to retake the lead.
But unlike last year's collapse against the Wolverines, Indiana fought back.39.16659 -86.53424 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Michigan!
Indiana coach Tom Crean took a gamble Thursday.