Bob Knight graced the Value City Area Jumbotron minutes before tipoff between Ohio State and Indiana with a message for both programs’ fan bases: “I used to coach a little bit, but there’s nothing like Ohio State basketball.”
It was a clear jab at Indiana, the program Knight guided to three national titles while coaching the Hoosiers for 29 years before being dismissed in 2000. It was the capacity crowd at Ohio State – the school for which Knight once played – that the message was intended to fire up.
As it turned out, that message did little to deter top-ranked Indiana, who got the last laugh on its way to a crucial 81-68 win over the No. 10 Buckeyes on Feb. 10.
Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 26 points, Cody Zeller had 24 and Christian Watford added 20 for the Hoosiers, a team that bounced back in a big way after a stunning collapse on the road at Illinois on Feb. 7.
“Ohio State is really, really good and we have at times in the past not had the firepower to be able to compete with them,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “And then last year as we were getting better, we didn’t have the toughness to compete.”
The Hoosiers had both this time around. Oladipo and Zeller combined to make 16 of their 21 shot attempts, and Indiana shot 53.1 percent from the floor, the highest field goal percentage of any team the Buckeyes (17-6, 7-4 Big Ten) have faced all season.
Despite possessing the Big Ten’s leading scorer in Deshaun Thomas, who posted a team-high 26 points, the Buckeyes failed to keep up with Indiana’s offensive efficiency. Aaron Craft scored 16 points and LaQuinton Ross added 11, but the fate of the game was already decided before either player reached double figures in scoring.
As a result, Ohio State lost their second game this week – the other coming at No. 3 Michigan – and fell two games behind the conference lead with only seven contests remaining. The loss ended an Ohio State’s run of avoiding back-to-back losses that dated back to January of 2010, a span of 121 games.
The Buckeyes now are 1-6 against ranked opponents this season and have fallen to fifth place in the Big Ten behind first place teams Michigan State (9-2) and Indiana and second place teams Michigan (8-3) and Wisconsin (8-3).
“We didn’t guard them at the level we needed to guard them,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “That ignited IU, and I give them credit – they answered everything we did in a timely fashion. We didn’t have what we needed to win this game, just in terms of making the plays we needed to make. In this level of a game, that can’t happen.”
The closest Ohio State got to the Hoosiers in the second half was at 43-39 with 16:30 remaining in the game when Thomas hit three free throws after being fouled while shooting from beyond the arc.
But like it did the entire game, Indiana had an answer. Oladipo accounted for five-straight points to expand Indiana’s lead back to nine. After Craft scored a bucket for the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers expanded its lead to 53-41 on a three-pointer from the corner by Will Sheehey and a layup by Zeller.
The Hoosiers expanded their lead to as high as 16 points at 62-46 with 9:30 left to play when Watford knocked down a three, all but ending Ohio State’s chances at pulling off the comeback on its home floor.
The Buckeyes, who again failed to identify a second scoring threat, played catch-up for the remainder of the game, but were never able to inch close enough to feel like a real threat. Ohio State got within eight points twice in the final 1:06, but Indiana put the clamps down after blowing a late lead at Illinois earlier in the week.
“When we would make a run, they’d come back and make a run back at us,” said Craft, who admitted he didn’t feel the same level of energy from his team that was apparent on the road at Michigan earlier in the week. “Indiana kept their composure, and that’s what great teams do.”
Though Amir Williams picked up two fouls 3:02 into the game, the Buckeyes held tough for most of the first half. A layup and three-pointer by Jordan Hulls put the Hoosiers up 11-4 early, but Ohio State responded with nine-straight capped by a three from Thomas to take the 13-11 lead with 11:35 remaining in the first half.
But with Williams on the bench, that left Evan Ravenel and Trey McDonald to guard Zeller. The 7-footer made the Buckeyes, scoring 12 points in the first half as the Hoosiers expanded their lead 41-33 at the break.
“Zeller was really finishing inside,” Matta said.
The Buckeyes came out of perhaps its toughest week of the season with two losses, and Ohio State now finds itself in tough position to at least grab a portion of its fourth consecutive conference title.
Indiana, meanwhile, made a statement on the road in its first victory over a top 10 opponent since winning at Iowa in 1993. The Hoosiers, backed by its three leading scorers, made a case for holding onto the top spot in the polls.
“They played as well as a triangle, three guys, as you could, because it was on both ends of the floor,” Crean said of Zeller, Oladipo and Watford.
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