PORTLAND, Ore. — Will Sheehey had two options when he grabbed the loose ball: back it out and play for the final shot of regulation, or take the open jumper.
Indiana coach Tom Crean wanted the Hoosiers to be aggressive Saturday, and Sheehey was paying attention.
The sophomore forward made a 15-footer from the baseline with 12.7 seconds left after a shot was blocked right to him, and the fourth-seeded Hoosiers beat 12th-seeded VCU 63-61 Saturday to reach the NCAA Tournament's round of 16 for the first time in a decade.
"It's been a constant grind for us ever since the end of last year," Christian Watford said. "We've been working hard and we did a great job with adversity."
Indiana (27-8) trailed by as much as 57-48 and held VCU to four points the final 12½ minutes. In that span, the Rams missed 13 of 15 shots, including all eight 3-pointers, had five turnovers and were 0-for-2 from the line.
And when Rob Brandenberg's open look at a potential winning 3 rimmed off, the Hoosiers were finally able to celebrate their first trip to the region semifinals since 2002.
Next up is a rematch with top-seeded Kentucky in Atlanta. The Hoosiers' last-second win over the Wildcats back in December announced their return to the national stage.
The trip to the Sweet 16 is another milestone in Crean's rebuilding job from the decimated program he inherited four years ago.
"All college basketball teams work really hard," Crean said. "But these guys have had to come from a long way, a long way, and I'm proud of them."
Watford and Cody Zeller had 16 points each for the Hoosiers. Watford was huge at the end of the first half, scoring the final eight after VCU (29-7) had threatened to run away. Zeller stepped up late with his first field goal since the middle of the first half with 2:55 left.
But IU's scoring leaders became secondary figures in the final seconds.
The first star was Victor Oladipo. After Bradford Burgess missed two free throws that could have given VCU a five-point lead, Oladipo made an aggressive sprint to the basket and converted a tying three-point play with 46.5 seconds left.
When Troy Daniels missed a 3 for VCU, Indiana had a chance at the lead. Instead of calling timeout, Oladipo tried to get to the rim but was blocked by Darius Theus. The loose ball bounced to Sheehey, who hit his only basket of the second half.
"I thought the momentum was on our side. … And I'm comfortable shooting at that range," Sheehey said.
KENTUCKY 87, IOWA ST. 71: Freshman Marquis Teague scored a career-high 24 as the top-seeded Wildcats (34-2) put together another complete performance with a dominating second-half run in Louisville, Ky. Freshman Anthony Davis had 15 points and 12 rebounds and senior Darius Miller added 19 points for Kentucky, which used a 20-2 burst to break away from the Hawkeyes (23-11).
BAYLOR 80, COLORADO 63: Brady Heslip made nine 3-pointers and finished with 27 points to lift the Bears in Albuquerque, N.M. Heslip helped break open a tight game with two 3-pointers that were part of a 14-0 run and gave third-seeded Baylor (29-7) a 75-60 lead. Freshman Askia Booker had 15 points for the 11th-seeded Buffaloes (24-12).