Crean says Ohio State is 'the best team we will have played thus far'

Ohio State brings length and a seven-game win streak into Assembly Hall as Indiana attempts to win four straight Big Ten games for the first time since 2008.

It's been eight years since Indiana last started conference play 4-0. But with Sunday's 1:30 p.m. (CBS) Big Ten home matchup against Ohio State, the Hoosiers have a chance to accomplish just that for a second time.  

Winning four Big Ten games in a row would be a first for Indiana (13-3, 3-0) in the Tom Crean era, but getting there won't be easy.

"We're in a position where we know we have to play exteremely well tomorrow," Crean said.

Both teams carry heavy momentum into Sunday's game. Ohio State (11-5, 3-0) has won its last seven in a row, while Indiana has won its last eight. 

Indiana, however, is undefeated at home, while Ohio State is 2-2 on the road including neutral site games. The Buckeyes also started the season 4-5 before getting on their current seven-game win streak. 

One of the first aspects of Ohio State that stands out is its length with nine out of 11 players on the roster at 6'5 or taller. That makes it challenging for opposing teams to get their shots off, as Ohio State has blocked 10.5 percent of its opponents' field goal attempts while averaging a Big Ten second-best 6.2 blocks per game. 

Offensively, opponents struggle to block the Buckeyes' shots. Out of Ohio State's 898 field goal attempts this season, only 28 have been swatted by opponents.

IU freshman forward Juwan Morgan attributed the Buckeyes' offensive success to their ability to move the ball well and locate their shooters.

"We have to disrupt those things and take them off their paths," Morgan said. "Even if it's something as small as moving them from the elbow to the 3-point line, things like that will help us in the long run." 

The Buckeyes' roster has an average height of 6'5, which also helps with getting deflections and steals. Ohio State averages six steals per game. 

That length will cause problems offensively for Indiana, which still hasn't corrected its turnover problems. Through three Big Ten games, the Hoosiers have committed 56 turnovers, averaging nearly 19 per game. Starters have accounted for 48 of the 56 total turnovers through those three games as well. 

No Indiana starter has struggled more than junior forward Troy Williams, who leads all players in Power 5 conferences with 51 turnovers overall, including 13 in Big Ten play.

"For every one of our guys, it's about making the game simpler," Crean said. "...Troy's decision making is still a huge thing, and he's got to continue to improve upon it." 

Fifth-year guard Nick Zeisloft is confident Williams can turn his mistakes around. 

"The way we look at it, we don't really see Troy as in a funk right now," Zeisloft said. "He's going to keep playing and play at a high rate because he's a great player for us. Whatever funk he's in, I don't think he's going to be in it tomorrow." 

Ohio State point guard JaQuan Lyle, with 50 turnovers committed so far this season, isn't far behind Williams. However, Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta letting Lyle play through his mistakes has been a big reason why Ohio State has won its last seven games. 

Lyle has averaged 5.1 assists per game to 3.1 turnovers per game so far.

Crean complimented Lyle's passing ability, vision and size on Saturday, comparing the 6'5 guard to a quarterback.

"He's very confident with the ball," Crean said. "If he was a quarterback, he'd be one of those guys that can make that back shoulder throw. He can throw it into that tight area and execute the play, he's that type of passer, so we've got to do a great job of not just playing him as a driver and a scorer, but as a passer." 

For Indiana to stop Ohio State, it has to focus not only on Lyle but Marc Loving as well. The 6'7 forward has shot 50 percent from 3-point range in Big Ten play while shooting 52 percent from the field overall in those three games. 

The other player to keep an eye on is Kam Williams. A redshirt sophomore guard who normally comes off the bench, Williams saw his minutes increase in Ohio State's recent win over Northwestern as Keita Bates-Diop battled early foul trouble. He stepped in off the bench and finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. 

"This is the best team we will have played thus far, and I don't think there's any question, because of all that athleticism and skill, and the fact that they're playing with a lot of confidence. " Crean said. "We've got to play well."


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