Bucks Seek Revenge Vs. IU

Thad Matta refuses to believe his No. 5 Ohio State basketball team is at a crossroads in the season, but there's no questioning Sunday's game against No. 7 Indiana could prove to be a major influence. Get the full preview from the game inside.

Ohio State is only five games into the Big Ten season, which is reason enough for head coach Thad Matta to shove aside the notion that his No. 5 Buckeyes are at an early-season crossroads.

Even with two of those conference games featuring Ohio State losses on the road – which matches the season-total for defeats a year ago – Matta isn't ready to push the panic button even if the team's followers did days ago.

If one thing is for certain, though, it's that the Buckeyes (15-3, 3-2 Big Ten) don't want to be on the wrong side of the tracks after its game against No. 7 Indiana Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in Value City Arena.

"Revenge," sophomore big man Jared Sullinger simply said when asked about his thoughts about facing Indiana, the team the Buckeyes fell to on New Year's Eve to magnify the Buckeyes' road struggles.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I don't take losing lightly. I still think about the time we lost at Kansas, I still think about the time we lost at Indiana, and I still think about when we lost at Illinois. I don't take it lightly. My mindset coming into the game is getting revenge."

While revenge is certainly what the Buckeyes hope to achieve against the resurgent Hoosiers, perhaps Sullinger's concentration is aimed merely at helping his team break out of its unexpected slump.

After Ohio State's Tuesday loss at Illinois – the Buckeyes' second loss in four games – Sullinger took responsibility for taking defensive plays off. After the contest, point guard Aaron Craft expressed public concern about his team's effort, something for which Sullinger took full blame.

Sullinger, who has taken a hiatus from social media to focus solely on the team, said he's reenergized to be the team's leader. Proving that against Indiana, however, could prove to be more difficult than it has been in the past.

Though Indiana (15-2, 3-2) hasn't finished higher than ninth in the Big Ten in multiple years, Tom Crean seems to have the program heading back toward the elite status it has enjoyed for decades, already leading the Hoosiers to wins over then-No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio State in Assembly Hall.

"It takes time to rebuild something, and obviously they've done a great job with that," Matta said of the Hoosiers. "The fans never left them and I know that just being over there a couple of weeks ago, they're every excited about what they have going on right now. In terms of the Big Ten, it adds another team that's a national contender."

But Ohio State won't be the only team looking to bounce back from a loss.

Though Indiana has suffered only two losses on the season, the Hoosiers are coming off a loss against Minnesota in its last game out. The Gophers had lost four-straight before topping Indiana – a team that won its first 11 games at home this season - in Bloomington Thursday evening.

Crean was displeased with the loss, but hopes his Hoosiers can get yet another signature win against the Buckeyes with both teams looking to reestablish themselves in a Big Ten race that has recently become anyone's to win.

"We don't have a lot of guys who have come from winning backgrounds," Crean said. "When you start to win, as things change around you, your mindset can't change. They've got to learn, they've got to grow through that. This is new for them. As coaches, we've won before, we've been ranked. We've been to the Final Four, but they haven't."

Picked as the unanimous favorite to win the Big Ten before the season, Ohio State has yet to prove that it is has separated itself from the rest of the conference. The Buckeyes, along with No. 6 Michigan State, Indiana, and No. 13 Michigan, have all made strides on a national level this season.

But no, the Buckeyes' aren't at season-impacting intersection, Matta said. Instead, he said the team is focusing on continuing the path that was expected from the beginning, even if it has encountered some unexpected adversity. Beating Indiana would go a long way in restoring that normal feeling in Columbus.

"I don't think I would call it a crossroads," Matta said. "You don't ever want to lose a basketball game. With that said, we've got to continue to find ways to play better, to play more consistent. You view the Big Ten right now, you just look across the board and sort of scratch your head, like, there's a lot of us that might be in crossroads games five games into the Big Ten."

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