Ohio State lost 69-66 at Indiana on Jan. 10. The Buckeyes (15-5, 4-3) were in that game at the end despite shooting 34.3 percent for the game and connecting on just 3 of 21 threes. Ohio State was outrebounded 48-39 in that contest and still had a chance to tie the score at the free throw line with 32 seconds left.
“Obviously it’s a completely different game (tomorrow),” Matta said. “We didn’t play particularly well. How much they had to do with that, probably quite a bit. We had opportunities, we had looks at the basket that we want that didn’t go down for us. Obviously we didn’t rebound the ball the way we needed to on both ends of the floor. They’re playing better right now and I think we’re playing better.”
Indiana (15-4, 5-1) is coming off an 89-70 win over No. 13 Maryland and enters the game the No. 23 team in the country. The Hoosiers are led by freshman James Blackmon Jr. and his 16.9 points per game, while Yogi Ferrell (15.4) and Troy Williams (13.5) also average double figures.
Matta said he expects Indiana to play a small lineup tomorrow, much like they did when they beat the Buckeyes in the first meeting.
“We know that dribble penetration, keeping the ball in front of us is going to be huge,” senior Sam Thompson said. “They usually have five guys that can make plays off the bounce. Five pretty interchangeable guys on offense.”
Like Indiana, the Buckeyes are coming off a big win of their own. While Ohio State didn’t top a ranked opponent, they did battle back from a double-digit deficit to defeat Northwestern 69-67 Thursday on the back of a 33-point effort from D’Angelo Russell.
While it was just one game, the team is hoping that win is a turning point for what has been an inconsistent season.
“I hope that there is a sense of relief in terms of we got way down, we got up, they made a great comeback on us, made some incredible plays, and we were able to finish it off,” Matta said.
The coach went with a new starting lineup against the Wildcats, inserting Jae’Sean Tate and Anthony Lee in for Marc Loving and Amir Williams. It was the first time this season that Matta changed the lineup without an injury and he said that starting spots are still up for competition in practice.
After a stretch where the team played four of five games on the road (the Buckeyes went 3-2 in that span) Ohio State is happy to be back in Value City Arena for their next two contests.
“It’s huge,” Thompson said. “It’s so tough to win on the road in this conference, so tough night in, night out with those fans screaming at you and teams giving you their best shot. Whenever you get a chance to get two at home, you’ve got to get it.”
Matta agreed. The Buckeyes have won consecutive conference games just once this season and the coach is hoping that changes tomorrow.
“Hopefully there is a sense of, ‘let’s continue this forward,’” Matta said. “Let’s win a couple in a row and try to get momentum back on our side.”