Porous defense, turnovers haunt Hoosiers

Indiana's four-game winning streak was snapped Sunday afternoon at Ohio State.

COLUMBUS, Ohio --- Now, Indiana knows how Maryland felt on Thursday night.

Three days after the No. 23 Hoosiers blew the No. 13 Terrapins out of Assembly Hall despite Maryland's 51 percent shooting, Indiana got a dose of its own medicine on Sunday.

The Hoosiers shot 52 percent from the field and made 12-of-25 shots from beyond the arc, and still lost by double-digits, 82-70.

Unlike Maryland, though, it wasn't just Ohio State's hot shooting that led to the final outcome in Columbus -- it was also the Hoosiers' multitude of careless turnovers.

Indiana turned it over 15 times -- 11 in the first half -- and allowed Ohio State to shoot 62 percent from the field. By themselves, those things lead to disasters on the road. Combine them and you see just how remarkable it was that the Hoosiers were in the game.

"Troy [Williams] trying to make plays that aren't there, Stan [Robinson] trying to make some plays that aren't there," Indiana coach Tom Crean said of reason for the turnovers. "James [Blackmon] and Rob [Johnson] not cutting and moving without the ball the way that they need to."

The turnovers were a major factor in the first half, but the Hoosiers were still in the game, down only six at the break. They cut it to six again, 56-50, with under 10 minutes to go. Get a few stops, and Indiana still has a chance to win.

But those stops never came, and the Hoosiers watched as their four-game winning streak was snapped. Ohio State put on an offensive clinic, shooting a remarkable 75 percent (18-of-25) from the field in the second half. The Buckeyes repeatedly got easy baskets at the rim, often without an Indiana defender in sight.

"The bottom line is, D'Angelo Russell and Shannon Scott played the way we couldn't let them play," Crean said. "And we did. They have a lot to do with it, no question about it. But we never took them out of what they wanted to do. They never got uncomfortable.

"It starts with better transition defense. It's just being aggressive in whatever you're in. There's a lot of different things, and we'll continue trying to figure them out because we're not getting any bigger any time soon."

Russell, Ohio State's freshman star who has been on a scoring tear of late, was terrific all afternoon. After shooting just 3-of-15 from the field in the teams' first meeting in Bloomington earlier this month, Russell had 22 points, 10 assists and six rebounds on Sunday. He scored 13 of the Buckeyes' first 19 points, and when the Hoosiers keyed on him, he found open teammates for easy baskets inside.

Freshman Jae'sean Tate, who got his second straight start, had 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting, mostly as the beneficiary of passes from Russell.

"Those guys did a better job of cutting and getting in the line of vision of the passer than we did," Crean said. "We never took them out of their comfort zone. We never got up and took things away from them."

The perfect example of Indiana's shortcomings on Sunday came at the end of the first half. The Hoosiers used a 7-0 run to cut Ohio State's lead from 10 to three at 35-32, and they got the ball back after forcing an Ohio State turnover. Only a few seconds separated the game and shot clocks, meaning Indiana could run the clock down and likely take the final shot of the half. If not, only a second or two would remain for the Buckeyes.

Worst case scenario: Indiana heads to the locker room down three and with all the momentum after its 7-0 spurt.

Instead, Stanford Robinson, just into the game, rushed the ball down the floor and turned it over with 33 seconds left. On the other end, Russell ran the clock down, then attacked Robinson off the dribble for a three-point play with only three seconds. Ohio State led 38-32 at the break.

Situational basketball goes a long way in deciding which team wins a close game, and it cost Indiana on Sunday. Championship teams understand how to handle such situations. It doesn't take anything spectacular, it just takes playing smart.

After the break, Ohio State scored four easy baskets on its first four possessions of the second half, and the game was essentially over.

"We had a few too many freshman moments," Crean said.

Added Yogi Ferrell: "Bad communication, guys not having the effort and the will to go down and play D, get crucial stops in the game. We didn't communicate at all."

Sunday's game figured to be a potential letdown game for the Hoosiers after their emotional win over Maryland on Thursday night. Ohio State desperately needed a quality win to put on its resume.

But the way in which the letdown occurred was somewhat troubling. It wasn't a case where the Hoosiers came out flat and not ready to play. They made their first eight shot attempts of the game and led 18-12 at the 13:40 mark of the first half. Instead, it was a combination of their major weaknesses from each of the last two seasons -- defense and turnovers -- that led to their undoing.

Offense isn't the issue. This team is going to score. But to remain among the top teams in the Big Ten standings, Indiana has to find a way to consistently get defensive stops, at home and on the road.


Peegs.com Top Stories