Game MVP…A case could be made for Lewis Monroe, but Marshall Strickland's plays on both ends of the court in the final 25 seconds were the difference. He tied up J.J. Sullinger after a rebound with 25 seconds left that would have given the Buckeyes the final shot, then drew the charge on Dials that produced the game-deciding free throws. Finally, he plucked the ball out of the hands of Matt Terwilliger before the back-up center could get off a final shot with :01.0 left to secure the win. Strickland was the only player on either roster who played all 40 minutes, and he contributed 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep. Most importantly, though, he produced the sort of plays that you count on seniors to make in tight games – head's up defensive plays and clutch free throw shooting.
Going Big vs. Small…Indiana started the game with both D.J. White and Marco Killingsworth on the floor, but quickly abandoned that strategy in favor of four perimeter players to try to defend the Buckeyes' 3-point attack. Ohio State's first six attempts from the floor were 3-pointers, and the presence of four legitimate perimeter shooters made it difficult for the Hoosiers to go big as often as they would have liked. Indiana played with four guards for 24:44 of the game, and with two big men for 15:16.
But when Indiana did go big, it did have success. In fact, Indiana's comeback from 17 down was accomplished with a pair of big men in the lineup. Indiana went on a 9-0 run late in the first half with Marco Killingsworth and Ben Allen on the floor. Then, Killingworth and D.J.White were on the floor to start the second half as IU went on a 14-5 run to wrestle the lead away from the Buckeyes. Overall, Indiana outscored Ohio State 32-26 when it had two big men on the floor, while Ohio State owned a 53-49 edge when it went against IU's four guards.
Wide Open Hoosier Attack…In the first two Big Ten games, Indiana has had five different players score at least 10 points in a half. Against Ohio State Marco Killingsworth reached double figures in both halves, while Lewis Monroe (11) and Marshall Strickland (11) reached double digits in the second half. In the Hoosiers' 70-63 victory Tuesday over Michigan, Robert Vaden and Rod Wilmont scored 17 and 12 points, respectively, in the second half.
What I Found Most Concerning…usually, falling behind by 17 against a team of the caliber of Ohio State spells defeat, but Indiana managed to mount a furious comeback to pull out the two-point win. That said, Indiana has struggled in the opening halves of recent games against Ohio State, Michigan and Butler. The league's best shooting team, Indiana has shot less than 40 percent from the floor in the opening halves of each of its first two Big Ten contests. With big games upcoming against Big Ten title hopefuls Michigan State and Illinois, the Hoosiers can't afford to start slow.
What I Found Most Surprising…How good Ohio State actually is. While the Buckeyes arrived in Bloomington with a top-20 ranking and a perfect 11-0 record, they had accomplished those feats against a schedule that was riddled with home contests and without very many formidable foes. But Coach Thad Matta's team showed Saturday it is a legitimate championship contender. Ron Lewis, Je'Kel Foster and Matt Sylvester is as good a perimeter shooting trio as anyone in the Big Ten boasts, and Terence Dials is every bit as dominant inside as any big man in the league. Add in the fact that Ohio State is a veteran team with four senior starters, this certainly looks like a team that could/should win 10-12 Big Ten games this season.
What I Found Most Impressive…the continued solid play from junior Roderick Wilmont. The 6-4 guard reached double figures for a second straight game, contributing 11 points and two steals in 29 minutes. He's always been a high-energy guy, but ill-advised shots and mental mistakes have limited his minutes in the past. With a loaded IU roster this season, Wilmont was a player that many thought might find himself sitting on the end of the bench. Instead, he's emerged as Indiana's sixth-man, someone whose on the floor when Indiana needs something good to happen.
Marco Killingsworth on his 7-of-9 free throw shooting, all of which came in the second half: "That's God right there. I prayed to him when I made the first one. They were just going in for me."
Marco Killingsworth on fellow Auburn transfer Lewis Monroe, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half: "Lewis stepped up big for us. I told Lewis it's time for you to play. Show people what you can do. He was hitting shots and passing and rebounding. He played really well for us."
Robert Vaden on Terence Dials still being in the game after seemingly picking up his fifth foul with 5:47 remaining: "We thought we had him fouled out, but he wasn't fouled out, so we just kept trying to do what we were doing, which was go inside to Marco every time. He was going to eventually foul out because we went inside every time."
Random Thoughts…This marks just the third time in the last 12 years Indiana has opened the Big Ten season 2-0. The Hoosiers did it during their 2002 Final Four season, opening league play 4-0 on their way to a 11-5 league mark and a conference co-championship. Indiana also opened 2-0 in Bob Knight's final season in Bloomington, opening with wins over Wisconsin and Penn State on their way to a 10-6 conference record in 2000…if anyone doubts the prevalence of the 3-point shot in today's college game – consider this: Nineteen players played in Saturday's game, and 15 of them attempted at least one 3-pointer. Two of the ones that didn't - IU's Errek Suhr and Ben Allen – are actually two of the league's best from behind the arc statistically, but neither attempted a shot in a combined five minutes. The two teams combined for 46 3-point attempts (out of 112 total shots)…Indiana needs to do a better job on the glass than it has in its first two Big Ten contests. IU was out-rebounded 21-11 in the early going, and eventually lost the battle of the boards 36-30, despite owning a size advantage over the Buckeyes. The margin is even more decided on the offensive glass, where Michigan and Ohio State have combined to come away with 33 offensive rebounds, compared to just 18 for Indiana. One of the stapes of Tom Izzo-coached teams at Michigan State is rebounding, so expect the Spartans to try to whip Indiana on the glass Wednesday.
Upon Further Review...Ohio State
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