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March 25, 2013

Watford’s block is his biggest play yet

Christian Watford’s game-winning 3-point shot to defeat No. 1-ranked Kentucky 73-72 on Dec. 10, 2011, at Assembly Hall is the stuff of legend for fans of Indiana basketball.

It put IU’s program back on the map. It was the moment when IU stopped wondering whether it could be good and became great.

It will live long in the memory of all Hoosiers fans. An IU fanatic is probably replaying it on Youtube as you read this. Indiana fans from Angola to Mount Vernon and all points in between have photos of Watford’s shot in their man caves.

As big as that play was, Watford topped it Sunday in IU’s 58-52 third round NCAA Tournament victory over tough-as-nails Temple at University of Dayton Arena. And he topped it with one fell swoop.

Watford’s block on an Anthony Lee shot with 2:18 left saved the Hoosiers’ season — and the Hoosiers badly needed saving.

For much of the contest, the Hoosiers were out-toughed and out-played by a Temple team that rose to the occasion and made IU shrink from the moment. It wasn’t so much that IU brought a knife to a gunfight; it was that the Hoosiers brought a pillow to a fistfight. Temple made IU look soft.

Cody Zeller was scattershot. Jordan Hulls was hurt — though his grit in playing through pain in the second half was also a big key to the Hoosiers’ victory. Victor Oladipo had trouble getting good looks against Temple’s withering defense, wore himself out running down Temple gunner Khalif Wyatt, and got frustrated.

Temple controlled the first 38 minutes of the game, and it seemed, was well-placed to take all 40.

Temple was up 52-50 when Lee was found wide open in the lane as IU triple-teamed uber-dangerous Wyatt in the corner, Lee’s open path to the basket spelled doom for the Hoosiers. IU seemed destined to flush what could be a special 2013 season down the drain.

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