BLOOMINGTON-If Mike Davis speaks the truth, then the Hoosier coach must not be sleeping very well at night these days.
With the Big Ten season now underway, the sixth-year Hoosier coach has been knee deep in game film of the Hoosiers upcoming foes, and he been impressed with what he's seen from Indiana's first two opponents.
"The funny thing is, you watch Michigan (on film) and they scare you to death," said Davis. "Then you turn around and watch Ohio State, and they scare you even worse."
There's no disputing that the Buckeyes arrive in Bloomington for Saturday's nationally-televised 4 p.m. contest with a record that would make just about anyone take notice. Coach Thad Matta's 18th-ranked team is 11-0 and one of just six undefeated teams left in Division I basketball. While that record has come thanks in large part to a non-conference schedule that's far from bloodcurdling, the Buckeyes will certainly arrive at Assembly Hall with momentum and plenty of confidence.
"They have an older team, they're really executing well and playing hard, their confidence is sky high," said Davis. "It's going to be a tough game for us."
The Buckeyes enter the game shooing 50.8 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc, a pair of marks that rank second in the Big Ten to Indiana. Ohio State, meanwhile, leads the conference in scoring at 81.8 points/game, just ahead of Indiana's 80.6 per outing.
Matta's team includes a go-to guy in the middle in 6-9, 260-pound Terence Dials, a couple of high-scoring perimeter players in Je'Kel Foster and Ron Lewis, a versatile wing in J.J. Sullinger, and plenty of others who are more than capable of stepping forward and leaving their own mark on the outcome of Saturday's game.
"Dials has always been tough for us to handle," said Davis. "Sullinger is a fifth-year guy. Sylvester is a senior. Foster is a senior, a junior college player who is a really good player who is shooting it well. Lewis transferred from Bowling Green, and he's a (fourth-year) junior."
It certainly won't be a cakewalk for the Hoosiers on Saturday, but it's the sort of game the Hoosiers know they must have in the win column if they hope to contend for a conference championship. Other than perhaps Penn State and Purdue, every game on everyone's conference schedule looks like a dogfight.
"There are about eight teams in the league that on any give night can beat anybody," said Davis. "It's tough. I heard someone say last night that you can lose three games in a row (in the Big Ten) and be one of the better teams in the league."
That might be, but three setbacks in a row would certainly knock just about anyone out of league title contention. And with Indiana's next two contests coming against a pair of teams currently ranked in the top 10, the Ohio State contest becomes critical.
But, not easy.
"Every game you see, you have to play well to win," said Davis.
Indiana will try to do just that with a lineup that will have a decided size advantage at the tip. While Ohio State starts four perimeter players along with Dials, Indiana will counter with a pair of big men in Marco Killingsworth and D.J. White plus three guards.
"They have four guys that can shoot it, but we want to take advantage of our end," said Davis. "If you don't take advantage of that, they can stay that way for a long period of time, but we're going to try to go inside against whoever the smaller guy is guarding and play inside out."
That will put a burden on either White or Killingsworth as they attempt to guard the perimeter, something they haven't been accustomed to doing during their playing careers.
"It's tough because D.J. and those guys are so used to playing in the paint and not guarding guys on the perimeter."
Fortunately for Davis, though, he knows he can go in a different direction if Indiana's bigger lineup isn't producing the sort of results he's hoping for.
"That's an adjustment that we have to make, and we can make it because we can always put (Robert) Vaden in at the 4, and play Marco and D.J., and then you can play Marco for five miutes and then DJ for five minutes, and put a lot of pressure on Dials because the backup guy is not a backup guy," said Davis.
Nothing's Going To Come Easy
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