Indiana holds on at Ohio State, 96-92

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This was Robert Johnson’s act of defiance.

A personal shooting slump dogged the Indiana junior guard throughout the month of February, turning a once-reliable secondary scorer into a player searching for his former self.

The past few weeks saw Johnson lifting shots into the air to little avail, searching for a breakthrough in games, during practices and virtually all points in between. Then, in Saturday’s regular season finale at Ohio State, Johnson found the reward he had been hunting.

Johnson’s 26 points helped the Hoosiers hold off the Buckeyes, 96-92, in a victory that gives Indiana hope of securing the No. 10 seed and a single bye when the Big Ten Tournament begins next week in Washington, D.C. Indiana (17-14, 7-11) will have to wait and see what Nebraska does at home tonight against Michigan before it knows its exact itinerary for the trip east.

Should the Cornhuskers lose, IU will clinch the No. 10 seed and open the conference tournament on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against the No. 7 seed — potentially Michigan or Iowa. If Nebraska wins, Indiana will be the No. 11 seed and open the postseason on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against No. 14 Rutgers.

The win over the Buckeyes (17-14, 7-11) brought a small dose of much-needed momentum for the Hoosiers, who had to rally late after blowing an 18-point, first-half lead.

C.J. Jackson’s 3-pointer at the 11:37 mark of the second period gave Ohio State its first advantage of the day at 62-61. Moments later, Indiana responded.

Spurred by five points each from Johnson and Juwan Morgan, IU authored a 10-0 run to create the separation it needed to reclaim the lead and hold off another Buckeye scare in the waning moments.

Johnson, like his team at large, responded when needed.

“We’re a get-well card for guys,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “You’re struggling? Play Ohio State and get out of your slump just like that. It’s been that way all season. He was tremendous.”

Johnson had been mired in a 7-for-42 funk from 3-point range during his previous eight games, but connected on five deep shots against the Buckeyes. He finished one point shy of tying his career high — set in a triple overtime win against Penn State earlier this season — grabbed six rebounds and dished six assists against zero turnovers.

“You could say that he was due, and you’d be right,” Crean said. “It’s just an anomaly that he has not played as well with his shooting, and it’s heartbreaking sometimes when he’s missing shots because outside of James Blackmon and Rob — and Josh Newkirk would be in this group, too — those three work so much extra on their shooting, almost to the point of, just relax.”

Johnson hit each of his first six field goal attempts, including a trio of 3-pointers to record 15 points in his first 11 minutes on the floor.

Indiana got off to an 11-0 start, featuring 3-pointers from Johnson, Blackmon and Newkirk. IU moved the ball well in the opening minutes, recording five assists on its first eight field goals and hitting five 3-pointers in the first five minutes of action. All told, IU made 13 of its first 15 field goal attempts, while committing only one turnover in the first eight minutes.

In a topsy-turvy performance from the Hoosiers, Johnson was a featured component when Indiana was at its best.

“I think my teammates did a good job of finding me and getting me involved early,” he said. “I just wanted to come out aggressive and try to attack.”

That aggressiveness was contagious, and it allowed the Hoosiers to build a 54-40 halftime lead — their highest first-half point total in conference play.

Quickly, however, that advantage disappeared.

For as poor as Ohio State played for large swaths of Saturday’s game, the worst version of Indiana resurfaced to start the second half. The on- and off-ball movement that was present for IU at the start of the game disappeared, just as old wounds were reopened.

The Buckeyes outscored the Hoosiers 13-3 in the first 4:35 of the period before Jackson’s 3-pointer four minutes later gave Ohio State its first lead of the day.

That’s when Johnson and Morgan responded — Johnson with a pull-up and a 3, Morgan with a couple layups, including an and-one that helped IU take a 74-64 lead with 6:51 to play.

“They’re a good team, so we knew they were going to fight back at halftime,” Blackmon said. “We just had to withstand that and come together and finish it out.”

Indiana was able to do so, in part, because it managed a delicate foul situation with care. Morgan and Thomas Bryant each finished with four fouls, while four others carried three. No Hoosier, however, picked up a fifth.

Ohio State did manage to give IU a scare in the final minute of regulation, getting within four points on three occasions before a 3 from Jackson narrowed the score at 94-92 with three seconds to play.

Blackmon made both of his ensuing free throws, and the Hoosiers made their way home with a win they — and Johnson — could feel good about.

33 comments

  1. Bryce Drew’s Vanderbilt takes down #12 Florida today….In only his second season, Bryce likely has Vandy dancing.

    Bryce was another quality young coaching candidate that the Hoosiers could have moved on after Crean’s disastrous 2014-15 season.

  2. It was nice to beat OSU. I hate their hoops team. No I don’t. I’m just saying that because “yaaaay, winning against other red teams” or something.

    I’d take Dick Vitale any day and twice on Sunday over Dakich. DD is killin’ me. Two games in a row with this blow hard was enough to push me to drinking whiskey at 9 am PST.

    I love the “you know what team scares every Big Ten coach, Indiana.” Now social media is running with this meme that Indiana can sweep through the B1G tournament.

    Perhaps we can. But I didn’t see anything today that led me to believe we’re any better or worse than we always are. Today, the jumpshots fell. I love ROJO as a person, so it made me happy that he got to light it up. But 4 games straight of those kinds of performances simply aren’t going to happen. We have to remember that we beat a team that was 10th (now 13th) in the B1G.

    We shot 58.9% for the game, 52.2% from 3 and only won by 4. I’d love to quote Mr Wolf from Pulp Fiction here, but this a family blog.

    On a side note, OSU’s hoops environment has the energy of an insurance seminar. When OSU was pulling even in the 2nd half, it barely felt like anyone was paying attention.

    1. Quite the opposite for me. I’ll take Dakich anyday over Vitale. Vitale just don’t cut it for me anymore. Nice guy but talk about a blowhard. He’s your man.

  3. Len Elmore, Walton & Vitale – sound off. Dakich I’ll listen to with the sound on low. I like the woman, Doris Burke (?). With the IU games, I wish they could just plug into the radio guy.

  4. All we had to do was give Dakich a 2-year coaching contract post Sampson. I actually advocated for the man to be given a shot.

    He walks away given his chance to suck as a coach. He likely doesn’t reinvent himself as a radio personality(eventual ESPN gig)….because he’s without all the suppressed resentment forever festering against Indiana. We don’t have to listen to his apologetic blabber for Crean (deceitful to my ears as I’m sure he wants nothing more than for Indiana to be locked into eternal mediocrity).

    And the grandest of positives? Very likely no Crean.

    1. No AD in their right mind would give — and no coach in his right mind would accept — a two-year deal. Immediately hamstrings recruiting.

  5. How many times today did we hear Dakich say, “Great coaching job by Tom Crean”…..?

    I wish they could show the face of his ESPN broadcast partners during these eruptions of flattery Dakich has for Crean….They likely have a full-court smirk without words: “Are you for real, Dan?”

    1. I ran into Dakich in the pits at the 500 2 years ago in 2015. I stopped him, introduced myself as a lifeline Indiana fan, and he said “I’m not! I’m not a fan of anything going on down there.” And that is a direct quote. I was stunned. It is his alma mater. He made the choice to play for Sampson, so any repercussions surrounding that he owns a part of. If he knew kids weren’t going to class, which he apparently did, when he sat them when he took over, then he should’ve spoken up back then. God knows he has the ability to speak up when he thinks his opinion needs to be heard.

      1. Dakich got his feelings hurt and he can’t get past that.

        That’s on him.

        Remember when Dustin refused to cheerlead for or condemn anyone in the athletic department based upon personal feelings? That’s because he was a professional.

        Dakich is not. He’s some guy who fell into a couple lucky situations and now gets the big bucks to spout personal opinions that are frequently asinine. He’s living the failed coach’s dream. At least Dick Vitale has the common decency to not pretend he was a successful coach before being handed a microphone.

        Listening to Dakich you would think he left a trail of success in his wake instead of failures.

  6. Wait! I can’t leave without posting a YouTube clip….Decisions, decisions…..?

    Theme? Compassion.

    True love have you brought me hope or have you paid my fee
    Or have you come to see me hangin’ from the gallows tree?

    Yes I have brought you hope, yes I have paid your fee
    For I’ve not come to see you hangin’ from the gallows tree.

    And my new favorite film under the same theme from the masterful heart of Charles Dickens…Highly recommend you watch “A Tale of Two Cities.” Make sure to watch the 1935 version starring Ronald Colman. And don’t watch it in ‘colorized’ crap….I saw the film on the Turner Classics channel. I will be forever moved by Colman’s performance.

  7. Does anyone think that Matta might have seen his last year at OSU? There are grumblings, like here, in Columbus that it might be time to move on. So, which would be a better job, OSU or IU?

  8. IU has the most upside. Though Ohio State, Lucas, Havlicek, Taylor, and company national champs plus having some good teams making other runs at championships they will always be second to football. Currently, IU again has lost it’s way and are not second to anything. If and when IU can get its act together with the right coach and regime (coaching plus equally as important getting IU championship appropriate recruits including getting its share of Indiana blue chippers and neighboring states recruits). Plus Glass can take those student bill of rights and use them as toilet paper unless he revises them to also include protections for coaches so they can maintain disciplined motivation regarding players.

  9. There is nothing in the student-athlete bill of rights that interferes with discipline or motivation. If a coach can’t maintain discipline or motivate players without abusing them then it’s a matter of poor coaching skills.

  10. It depends how you define abuse regarding discipline and motivation as it relates to coaching skills within the norm that is acceptable or unacceptable.

    1. I wrestled at IU when Doug Blubaugh was coach. All three of my kids were DI athletes at three different universities. None of us had experiences that would have been forbidden under the Student-Athlete Bill of Rights.

      Let’s not pretend it is something it’s not.

  11. Article 8 and 9. How do you define both areas within a norm of acceptable and unacceptable. Example could be K.W. situation even though I have know idea because of secrecy of A.D., administration, and K.W. surrounding it.

  12. Apparently, OSU had no problem with K.W. Maybe, O.S.U. has a different set of norms regarding football players and coaches.

    1. You are assuming that OSU is privy to information that none of the rest of us are.

      Maybe they are. Maybe not.

      1. I’m guessing that, if asked by OSU officials about the details of Wilson’s firing, Fred Glass would give them a hearty, “No comment.”

        In fact, I’m betting that they both signed documents forbidding either of them from disclosing the details. If that is not the case it’s interesting that CKW doesn’t seem to feel the need to give his side of the story.

        OSU is not the place I would look for the moral high ground.

  13. Seven games lost by five or fewer points this season. I have to believe that if OG and Hartman had been available throughout the entire season (not to mention the games missed by Blackmon), IU would have 24 wins by this point in the season. But I also believe that would not have satisfied Crean’s critics or quiet the cynicism that rages around this program. If Crean is retained for next season, this site is going to be a lot of fun to read.

  14. OK, you may be right.

    However, do you think the season hinged on Colin? No, of course not.

    How about this? How many games has OG started in his entire collegiate career? Does a team’s performance hinge on a guy who has started…what?…12 games in his entire collegiate career? Sometimes, but not often.

    JBJ missed as many games while playing as he did hurt. Maybe 3 games injured?

    Look up the NCAA site on games missed by players per team. IU has nothing on lots of other teams as far as games missed. They are nowhere near the top. It’s about average. It’s a part of the game.

    IU has lost a bunch of games because they play awful basketball. Does anyone watch this team and think, “You know, they play a great brand of basketball. If only they had another player or two who could implement this well thought out game plan.”

    No, they don’t.

    IU has lost a bunch of games because they simply don’t play a coherent game of basketball. When they win it’s because 1) they played a really bad team or, 2) they shoot the lights out from beyond the arc.

    Sometimes they shoot the lights out and still lose.

    Sure, they certainly would have won some more games…assuming no other teams we played were missing players, too. As I recall we lost to a Nebraska team that was down two starters.

    Since we beat Kansas and UNC we are down one player. That’s it. One. The team is just playing far, far worse.

    I look forward to next year, too. IU has more built in advantages than all but a handful of other schools. They should field teams that represent those advantages.

  15. We barely beat Penn State (twice) and Northwestern at home. We could have been 4-14 (14-17) too. As such we’re where we are: 10th in Big Ten a Big Ten that is at a historical low. Iowa is next and if we beat them we get to face Wisconsin yet again in the tournament. I certainly hope Coach Seven-Eleven is retained for next year. It should make for a most interesting season.

  16. You have to consider the relative value of the players that were injured. And although it is an unwinnable argument, I believe losing Hartman (for the entire season) and OG (for a big chunk) cost this team about six or seven wins. Hartman had the experience, leadership and BB IQ that this young team needed. He also does a lot of little things that can change the outcome of the game. OG is just an athletic freak on both ends of the floor. Aside from losing Bryant, losing those two players was devastating to this team. But my bigger point was, even if this team had won 24 games at this point, Crean’s critics would still be bashing him relentlessly and calling for him to be fired. To them, Crean is irredeemable. It’s become a feeding frenzy, and his critics are so convinced that things will be greatly improved when Crean is replaced by a new coach that they are setting themselves up for a huge disappointment. If Crean is fired after this season, odds are that IU Basketball will get worse before it gets better, and Crean’s critics will be very unhappy for a few years to come. If Glass is considering terminating Crean, he’d better be absolutely certain that he has a better coach in his pocket. Otherwise, he’s at risk of losing his job and setting IU’s basketball program back again and creating the scenario where “perfect” has become the enemy of “good.” One way or the other, expectations for IU Basketball will be extremely high.

  17. Podunker..while OG and Hartman are good and Big losses as well; one thing that cant be ignored is the “Matador Defense”…IU beat OSU scoring 96 points but OSU scored 92. Whether those 2 were on the floor or not DEFENSE is a team activity and we haven’t seen TEAM anything all year. Crean still had the quality players to play DEFENSE….if ONLY CTC could coach defense. With the players CTC has at his disposal OSU should never have scored 92 points..IF CTC could coach defense.

  18. If George McGinnis instead of leaving would have joined Steve Downing when Knight went to his first final four during his second year at IU …would they have beat UCLA badly that year? If this and if that is exactly that. Nothing.

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