Indiana survived 69-51 against Ohio State in a Big Ten battle that was much closer than the final score suggests. Marshall Strickland stepped up hitting key shots when Indiana desperately needed a basket. The Hoosiers pulled away at the end by hitting free throws, while the Buckeyes struggled to find their shot all night. Here are the keys from tonight's game.
Frontline depth exposed
Jeff Newton and George Leach both fouled out in this game against an Ohio State team without a real scorer inside. Newton played a hard game and made some good hard fouls, but Leach has to be more aware of his foul situation. Leach fouled Zach Williams with just over three minutes remaining and did not even impact the shot. Leach has to realize his importance to Indiana inside particularly with Newton already out of the game. IU has enjoyed four home games with only one road test, and the calls are likely to go against Indiana's big men in those games. Newton and Leach have to realize their importance to the team and avoid fouling trouble if possible.
Sean Kline and A.J. Moye played well in the front court for the final three minutes of the game, but again their task is much easier at home than it will be on the road. Indiana led 52-45 when Leach fouled out and on the road that lead would be hard to protect.
Coverdale does the little things
Tom Coverdale had 3 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists, but he made plays when he was needed. Coverdale knows the importance of getting the ball inside and was effective getting the ball to Leach and Newton on the block. He clearly had something to prove against Ohio State guard Brent Darby who lit up Indiana for 28 points in their meeting 10 days ago in Columbus. Coverdale is not one to back down from a challenge and held Darby scoreless in the first half. Darby scored 18 in the second half but still shot only 5-for-19 for the game. Coverdale accepted the challenge of guarding Darby and stayed in front of him throughout the game until Darby switched to defend Strickland. His leadership is the backbone of the team no matter what his stat sheet looks like.
Hoosiers playing great team defense
Indiana has been playing great team defense in the last few games. The Hoosiers held Ohio State to 26.8 percent shooting for the game. The Buckeyes did not have many opportunities to get a good look at the basket all night. This defensive performance comes only two days after Indiana held the talented Illinois offense to 39.3 percent shooting. Leach and Newton make Indiana a tough team to beat when they are clogging up the lane. The Hoosiers have blocked 15 shots in the past two games. IU became a team to be reckoned with last year when they picked up their defensive intensity. The Hoosiers need to continue playing solid defense if they want to challenge for the Big Ten championship.
Limit offensive rebounds
Coach Mike Davis challenged his team to keep Northwestern from getting seven offensive rebounds after IU gave up double digit offensive rebounds in their previous seven games. The Hoosiers accepted the challenge holding the Wildcats to four offensive rebounds, but Northwestern is the least athletic team in the Big Ten. Indiana gave up 10 offensive rebounds to Illinois and 10 more to Ohio State tonight. The Hoosiers have to keep their opponent from getting second chances if they want to win their next four games on the road.
Three wins without Bracey
Bracey Wright sat out his third straight game and for the third straight time watched IU get a win. While all three of those games were at home, the Hoosiers proved they can win without their leading scorer. Last year IU struggled without Jared Jeffries, losing a game at home against Wisconsin which cost them the out-right Big Ten championship. This year the team stepped up proving they can win without their best player. Different players stepped up in each game. Coverdale and Hornsby scored 19 a piece against Northwestern, Jeff Newton exploded for 28 against Illinois, and Marshall Strickland led the way for Indiana tonight with 15 points against the Buckeyes. Wright is still listed as day-to-day with a pinched nerve in his back, but is expected to play Saturday against Purdue. If the Hoosiers continue this team play they will be a much better team when Wright returns.
4 straight road games key to rest of season
IU will be tested by a four-game stretch of road games. This stretch of games will either put Indiana in the hunt for a conference championship or put them in a hole, depending on their play. IU has struggled in each of their road games this season losing two out of three. The Hoosiers play at Purdue (1/25), at Michigan State (1/28), at Louisville (2/1) and finish at Northwestern (2/5). If the Hoosiers can win two of the three Big Ten games they will be in a good position to contend for the Big Ten championship. IU has to play with more intensity on the road and continue to get the ball inside. Newton and Leach played well before fouling out and they will need to score points on this road trip for Indiana to be successful. Their trip to Mackey Arena next Saturday will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Hoosiers win, now must prepare for the road
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