WHAT HAPPENED: No. 1 Indiana responded to its late meltdown in a loss to Illinois with a convincing 81-68 win over No. 10 Ohio State in front of 18,809 at Value City Arena in Columbus.
The Hoosiers took the lead with 7:18 to go in the first half and never trailed again. They were up 41-33 at the break and after allowing the Buckeyes to cut the deficit to 43-39, they answered with a 10-2 run to go up 53-41. The Buckeyes fought back to cut the deficit to 72-64 with 1:18 to go and then 76-68 with 25 seconds left, but the Hoosiers hit five free throws in the last 19 seconds to salt away the victory.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers got 70 of their 81 points from three sources. Junior guard Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 26 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field and 9-for-10 shooting at the free throw line. He hit a 3-pointer and also recorded eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Hoosiers made it a point to establish sophomore center Cody Zeller early and often, and he scored in a variety of ways, hitting turnaround jumpers and hooks and layups, but also stepping out to hit from around 15 feet. He finished with 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field and 8-for-11 shooting from the free throw line. He also had eight rebounds and a block and simply dominated his matchup with Ohio State center Amir Williams.
Christian Watford was strong inside and out, hitting four critical 3-pointers as answers for Ohio State runs and also scoring in the post. He finished with 20 points in six rebounds in what was one of his strongest outings.
Senior guard Jordan Hulls had a brutal shooting night, making just two of nine field goal attempts and one of seven 3-pointers, but he also had four assists against one turnover. Freshman guard Yogi Ferrell scored just one point and attempted just one field goal, but he held his own in his matchup with Aaron Craft. He only turned the ball over once and had three assists. Craft scored 16 points on him and had three assists and also had three turnovers.
Ohio State junior forward Deshaun Thomas was difficult to guard as expected for the Hoosiers, and he finished with 26 points and seven rebounds while reserve forward LaQuinton Ross posted 11. Other than those three, none of the Buckeyes scored more than six points.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers took to heart all of their failures late in the loss at Illinois and made sure not to let those happen again Sunday. They stuck to the defensive game plan, and they very much stuck to the offensive game plan, which was getting the ball in the post.
Indiana was good but not great from beyond the arc on Sunday, hitting seven of 18 3-pointers, but they were 3-for-13 outside of Watford. Especially once Hulls realized it wasn’t his day from outside, the Hoosiers made a point to get the ball in either Zeller or Watford’s hands or other wise in the paint on almost every possession. That didn’t always lead to field goals and the Hoosiers actually scored the exact same number of points in the paint (28) as they did against Illinois, but they drew more fouls and spent more time at the line. The Hoosiers shot 22-for-28 for the field while Ohio State was 15-for-20. That was critical as Indiana finished with just one more field goal than Ohio State.
On defense, the Hoosiers made sure Thomas had to work for his points and they did a much better job of defending the 3 than they did against Illinois, as the Buckeyes finished 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. Also importantly, Indiana didn’t turn the ball over much, giving it away just 10 times. The Buckeyes scored 11 points off turnovers, but that was nowhere near the 28 Illinois scored off 14 turnovers on Thursday.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Simply rebounding from the loss at Illinois was enough to make this a huge win for Indiana, because the Hoosiers simply could not afford to let one loss turn into two, but winning in Columbus is such a significant feat for Indiana on its own merit.
Historically, it’s a big feat. The Hoosiers hadn’t won a true road game over a ranked opponent since beating Iowa in 2002 and hadn’t beaten a top 10 team on the road since beating Notre Dame in 2000. They hadn’t won in Columbus at all since 2008.
But more importantly, these are the sort of games Indiana has to win to win a Big Ten title. The home loss to Wisconsin and the road loss at Illinois cost them a significant amount of margin for error, so holding serve at home and only winning the road games in which they are heavily favored isn’t good enough. They still have Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan to play on the road, and this win should give them the experience and confidence necessary to win those sorts of games. Indiana remains at the top of the Big Ten with this win, and thanks to tumult in the rest of college basketball, the victory should also keep the Hoosiers in the top five.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“From the very beginning after we lost to Illinois, the biggest thing to our team was that if we were going to spend a lot of time worrying about bouncing back, then we were going to waste a lot of energy in trying to get better. I’m proud of the way these guys responded from a very tough loss the other night, one that they know that we squandered opportunities inside of the game. All we’ve been focused on the last few days is making sure that we got better.”
“We had to be sharper. We had to have better edge. We had to take care of the ball. We’re coming off two games when our opponents had scored a total of 48 points off of our turnovers the last two games, which is unacceptable. It’s one thing to be unacceptable to a coach. It’s a whole other thing when it’s unacceptable and owned by the team. I think they’ve done that.”
“The game plan was followed, and it wasn’t just a coaches game plan, it was the players that really, really addressed everything throughout the game and kept the confidence getting higher and higher in an incredibly tough environment against an excellent team.”
“When there could’ve been opportunities for us to settle for jumpers, we didn’t, and when they got big buckets, we came down and we matched it. I think that gave us tremendous confidence in the first half.”
“We did the best job all Big Ten of feeding the post today. Statistically, the stuff that we keep. And it wasn’t just feeding the post, it was getting the ball in the lane and getting the ball inside-out. There were very few instances where we took quick jumpers before the ball touched the paint, whether off the dribble or off the pass.”
On what IU saw from watching the Illinois game
“How we looked so immature. How we handled that last five minutes of the game. We’re too old for that. Even (freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell), Yogi’s too old for that. He’s played enough games now that he’s too old for that … We gotta make sure that never happens again.”
On getting the ball in the post
We just threw it in there. That’s what we changed. We just threw it in there. Sometimes it’s kinda hard because they kinda push Cody off where he wants to be or we can’t get it in because our man keeps backing up and we’re second-guessing ourselves. Today we had a mindset that we’re gonna throw it in there no matter what. If we do that, it opens the floor up so much.”
“We just stayed locked in. We never stopped playing. That was the main thing. We felt like we waited for the time to run out in the Illinois game instead of just playing all the way through. Once we did that, we were in pretty good shape.”
“Both of us just wanted to be aggressive. A lot of good things happen. Even if we don’t score or attract a lot of attention, we kick it out for 3’s or drives, so that kind of gets our offense flowing. Both of us wanted to be aggressive.”