Indiana earned an important 69-66 win over No. 22 Ohio State on Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are now 12-4 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. Here are five things I'm thinking about after the Hoosiers' win.
1. BLACKMON SUCCEEDED WITHOUT THE 3: It's been a tough stretch of games for freshman guard James Blackmon Jr., but he broke out of it against the Buckeyes in an unusual way. Blackmon, a dead-eye perimeter shooter, started to attack the rim, and then he got going.
There were a lot of positives that came out of the Hoosiers' win over Ohio State, but none were more important than this one to Indiana coach Tom Crean. Blackmon learned an important lesson, and he learned ways in which he can affect the game without making 3s. He showed other teams those things, too, and that matters.
Blackmon scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, including a tough floater and some very important free throws down the stretch. After he saw the ball go in the basket once, Blackmon immediately nailed a 3. That's how he can get going on nights he's not feeling it, and he should have a better understanding of that now.
2. CHANGE IN THE STARTING LINEUP: We've discussed this before, but it's time for Emmitt Holt to replace Hanner Mosquera-Perea in the starting lineup. Will it happen? I don't know. But it should. Holt has consistently outperformed Mosquera-Perea, and he has proven to be a much more reliable interior option over long stretches.
Holt is undersized, but he's excellent at timing blocked shots, he's a good rebounder, and he takes his time and finishes around the rim. Those are the things Indiana needs in a big man. Maybe coming off the bench will be a better role for Mosquera-Perea. Maybe it won't. Either way, he hasn't done his job consistently, and it's time to make a change in the starting lineup.
3. EFFORT CHANGES SO MUCH: Indiana didn't play with great effort at Michigan State, and was blown out. The Hoosiers played with lots of effort -- even when shots weren't falling -- against Ohio State, and won. It really does matter that much.
When Indiana attacks the offensive glass like it did on Saturday, the Hoosiers are a much different team. Troy Williams can rebound with the best of them when he goes to the boards every time, and IU's guards are better rebounders than many give them credit for.
It's difficult for teams to play with the same kind of energy and effort on the road as they do at home, especially teams as young as the Hoosiers. But if IU can find a way to bring that intensity more often, it will surprise some people. Effort can help teams overcome other deficiencies.
4. HARTMAN'S AWARENESS ... is uncommon, it really is. Collin Hartman almost always makes the right basketball play, and that's why he's been such an important piece of Indiana's puzzle. Hartman played long stretches as the Hoosiers' center against Ohio State, and the Hoosiers stretched their lead during that time. I didn't think they'd get away with that before the season.
Hartman is undersized in the post, but he's one of the Hoosiers' best interior defenders. Why? His court awareness and understanding of the game. Like Holt, Hartman excels in timing blocks, and he boxes out better than most in college basketball. Fundamentals are a lost art for some, but they are the reason Hartman is in the rotation and making a major difference.
5. MAKE TEAMS MATCH YOU: Indiana is small. We all knew it would be during the offseason. They play small, and they're going to continue to play small.
People often talk about the fact the Hoosiers struggle to defend bigger teams, but less mention the fact that the bigger team must also defend IU. The goal, whether playing big or small, is to force the opposition to match you. Against Ohio State, Indiana did just that.
Ohio State's centers couldn't guard Hartman because he's a threat to shoot it from the perimeter and he's a strong driver to the rim. They also couldn't guard Troy Williams, who they sometimes had to switch onto after screens.
As soon as Hartman checked into the game in the second half, Thad Matta immediately pulled Amir Williams out of the game and went smaller. That's a win for the Hoosiers, and it's something they hope to continue to do against other bigger conference teams.