A pivotal week for IU basketball has the Hoosiers headed in the right direction and aimed squarely at a run toward a Big Ten championship.
The Hoosiers took a giant step toward that goal Sunday, picking up their most impressive win of the year by topping Ohio State in Columbus 59-53. The victory comes on the heels of Thursday's double-overtime win at Illinois and moves the Hoosiers (20-3/9-1) to within one-half game of Purdue for the Big Ten lead.
It was also IU's fifth Big Ten road win in six tries, and IU's first victory over a team in the conference with a winning record.
The victory also erased a lot of the doubts about Coach Kelvin Sampson's team after back-to-back losses to Connecticut and Wisconsin. Those setbacks dropped IU out of the top 10 and raised concerns that the Hoosiers impressive record was the result of a soft schedule.
But IU answered those charges Sunday with a win over an Ohio State team whose only home loss this year was to then-No. 1 North Carolina.
"That's as good a game as an Indiana team has had in two years, especially on the road," Sampson said. "Ohio State is good. There's a reason they're 7-3 (in the Big Ten)."
The Buckeyes might be good, but on this day Indiana was better. The Hoosiers used 12 points and 10 rebounds from D.J. White in the first half to open a 29-21 halftime lead, and they never relinquished it in the second half. White finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds and drew the praise of Sampson afterwards.
"D.J. White, that's a tough man," Sampson said. "I'm as proud of him as I can be. He's an inspiration for this team. I told (the team) at halftime, follow this kid."
White helped the Hoosiers build the first-half margin with dominant play inside, and then helped IU protect it late. The Hoosiers' senior closed out the first half with a pair of putbacks, including one with two seconds left to send IU into the locker room up eight. He then extended that lead to 10 with a jumper on IU's first possession of the second half.
An 8-0 OSU run cut the margin to two, but the Hoosiers answered with a 9-0 run to open their biggest lead of the day, 40-29, with 13:18 remaining.
But the Buckeyes wouldn't go quietly. OSU reserve Jon Diebler scored eight of his 14 points during the next five and a half minutes, and Kosta Koufos added five of his team-high 18 as well as the Buckeyes cut the lead to three, 46-43, with 5:45 left.
But White had an answer. On IU's ensuing possession, Jamarcus Ellis found White open along the baseline, and White threw down a thunderous dunk while being fouled by Koufos. That three-point play pushed the lead back to six, and halted OSU's rally.
Ohio State would get no closer than four the rest of the way, and the Hoosiers closed things out by going a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line in the game's final 30 seconds.
While White led the way with 21 and Eric Gordon added 15, the Hoosiers also got a big game from Jordan Crawford. Crawford earned the start in place of Armon Bassett and finished with eight points, five rebounds, a team-high seven assists, three steals and zero turnovers. Indiana committed only seven turnovers as a team and owned a huge 21-3 edge in points off turnovers.
"Jordan is a good player," Sampson said. "He had to learn to play at this level. Some are more ready than others."
On this day Crawford showed he was ready in one of the Big Ten's toughest venues, and the Hoosiers showed they're ready for a three-game homestand against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue that could establish them as the Big Ten front-runner.
"Just because you played a poor game against Connecticut or Wisconsin, you don't quit on these kids," Sampson said. "You go back to the gym and work."
D. White 10-15 1-1 21, Stemler 1-6 0-0 2, Taber 1-1 0-0 2, Gordon 4-10 4-4 15, Crawford 3-10 2-2 8, Bassett 2-7 0-0 5, Ellis 3-8 0-0 6, M. White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 7-7 59.
OHIO STATE 53
Turner 2-8 4-6 9, Hunter 3-4 0-0 6, Koufos 8-15 0-0 18, Butler 2-8 0-0 4, Lighty 0-4 0-2 0, Diebler 5-11 0-0 14, Terwilliger 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 21-53 4-8 53.
3-Pointers: Indiana 4-18 (Gordon 3-8, Bassett 1-4, Crawford 0-2, Stemler 0-4), Ohio State 7-27 (Diebler 4-10, Koufos 2-3, Turner 1-5, Butler 0-5, Lighty 0-2, Terwilliger 0-2. Rebounds: Indiana 33 (D. White 13), Ohio State 33 (Koufos 9). Assists: Indiana 13 (Crawford 7), Ohio State 13 (Butler 6). Turnovers: Indiana 7, Ohio State 10. Blocks: Indiana 2 (D. White), Ohio State 2 (Koufos). Steals: Indiana , Ohio State 1. Halftime Score: Indiana 29, Ohio State 21.
White's 21 Carries Hoosiers Past Buckeyes
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