Buckeyes Set To Host Indiana

OSU ended a three-game losing streak with its win over Minnesota Saturday. Now the Buckeyes want to start a winning streak. The best way to do that, J.J. Sullinger says, is to pull off a win over visiting Indiana Tuesday night (7 p.m., ESPN).

The nation will be watching Tuesday night as Ohio State hosts Indiana (7 p.m., ESPN), and that suits OSU guard J.J. Sullinger just fine.

"Any time you get a chance to play a nationally televised game, it's kind of neat," Sullinger said. "Just to know you're on national TV and pretty much the world is watching, it's neat. You've got people in other parts of the country who don't get to see you play. They get to see this game, so that's neat.

"For us, we have to approach it like any other game. This game is a must-win. If we win that game, we are back in the thick of things in the Big Ten. That's important, not only for our pride, but also for when it becomes decision time in March for the (NCAA) tournament. We just have to keep plugging away."

Indiana (8-6, 2-1 Big Ten) boasts a 3-3 road record this season. IU lost at Vanderbilt by 13, at Wake Forest by 33 and at Wisconsin by 34. Plus, Indiana lost a neutral site game to Kentucky by a whopping 39 points, 80-41. But IU also has road wins over Notre Dame, North Texas and Michigan, a 59-57 victory Jan. 11.

OSU coach Jim O'Brien believes that last road win at Michigan -- accomplished with center George Leach back in the lineup after missing nine games -- more typifies what the Hoosiers are about.

"I'm sure they feel good about that win," O‘Brien said. "It gets back to confidence. If you can win a couple of games on the road, you start thinking you can win anyplace. Whether you are winning at home or on the road, when you start winning some games you have some confidence. Winning at Michigan was a big win for them."

Likewise, Ohio State (9-7, 1-2) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 73-62 win over Minnesota Saturday at Value City Arena.

"We've had a good week-and-a-half," said Sullinger, who had 13 points and eight rebounds in the win over the Gophers. "We got back to the basics and we're playing hard. A lot of former players have come back and talked to us, trying to get us excited. I think we're starting to jell. We had four guys in double figures (against Minnesota). That hasn't happened in a while. Sometimes, one guy was hitting and everybody else was watching.

"Our shots fell, we played pretty good defense, that was a start. Do we have to get better? Of course, but I think that was the start of something good."

Sullinger said the team's struggles were hard to accept.

"It was definitely surprising and kind of hit us before we had any idea it was going to hit us," he said. "It was really disappointing. But things like that are going to happen. Some people may have felt, with a lot of new people on the team, that we would not find that chemistry right away. We're just working hard and trying to get better."

O'Brien confirmed the win over Minnesota has lifted his spirits as well.

"I can be happy for a couple of days," he joked. "We'll see what happens after Indiana. Our practices have been better, but we still have to put together a string of games where we are more consistent."

O'Brien announced that the same team that started against Minnesota -- Sullinger, Nick Dials, Tony Stockman, Terence Dials and Velimir Radinovic -- would start against Indiana. That would mark the first time in eight games that OSU has had the same starting lineup.

"We will start the same group we started against Minnesota and I know it has been a long time since we've had the same group start two games in a row," he said. "But that group played well for us. The kids who came off the bench contributed as well. If we can get that kind of production, there is no reason to change things all over the place."

Scouting Indiana

The Hoosiers, led by fourth-year head coach Mike Davis, sorely missed the 6-11 Leach, who is averaging 7.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. They were 4-5 in his absence.

"I think you can't discount the fact that Leach has been out," O‘Brien said. "You take a guy out of the middle that can block shots, you have to slide a little bit."

"They definitely look different than they did before," Sullinger said. "He is a good inside presence. He's a shot blocker. We've got the scouting report and we're ready. It's really not about what they do. If we play hard, we can play with anybody."

IU pins much of its hopes on the backcourt tandem of 6-3 sophomore Bracey Wright (19.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and 6-2 sophomore Marshall Strickland (9.7 ppg).

"Their strength is on the perimeter," O‘Brien said. "They play (6-3 senior A.J.) Moye some at the four spot. They're not as big across the board, but that gives them some versatility. I'm sure they'll try and get Moye to take one of our big guys away from the basket. They shoot a lot of threes. I think with Wright and Strickland, they are comfortable with them shooting threes and they are capable of having a great offensive night. So we have to have a good game defensively."

Moye adds 7.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Junior Donald Perry, a 6-2 guard, chips in 4.4 points per contest. While Leach was out, 6-8 sophomore Sean Kline filled in.

Leach returned against Michigan and had six points and four blocked shots in 21 minutes of action.

Then, IU downed Northwestern 73-62 Saturday at Assembly Hall behind 16 points from Wright and 15 from Strickland.

Also Notable

* Nick Dials hit two big three-pointers in the second half against Minnesota. If he can do that on a consistent basis, O'Brien said his presence can help the OSU offense.

"His two threes he made in that game and his potential ability to make those shots is important to us," O‘Brien said. "That means they have to go out and guard him. That stretches the defense and gives us some space inside. His presence is important, especially when he is making those shots. Those two threes he hit were big at that time, too."

* Last year, OSU and Indiana split their two meetings. OSU win 81-69 in Columbus, while IU cruised 69-51 in Bloomington. Shun Jenkins had a career-high 22 points for OSU in the win at home. Strickland tallied 15, Moye had 13 and Leach scored 11 in IU's win in Bloomington.

OSU is 3-1 against Indiana in Value City Arena.

* OSU's Radinovic leads the Big Ten in field goal shooting percentage, knocking down 64.6 percent of his shots (53-82). He has made 55 percent of his shots for his career (209-379) in 97 games.

* Stockman leads Ohio State with an average of 13.1 points a game. He has connected on 85 percent of his foul shots (28-33). With a total of 32 steals, Stockman is among Big Ten leaders (3rd) with an average of 2.00 thefts a game. Sullinger averages 10.3 points a game, second on the team.

* Terence Dials, who missed the majority of 2002-03 with a back injury, is the team's leading rebounder and fourth leading scorer. He is averaging 8.6 points and 6.8 rebounds, including a career-high 14-rebound effort in Ohio State's 77-71 win over Central Michigan at the Maui Invitational. He had 14 points and nine rebounds against Minnesota.

* With the 73-62 win over Minnesota, the Buckeyes now have won six of their last seven home games, including five of the last six at Value City Arena. In it's sixth season in Value City Arena, Ohio State is now 75-15, including a 5-2 mark at home this season.

* The Buckeyes shot 22-for-44 from the field in the win Saturday, marking the fifth time this season the Buckeyes have shot 50 percent from the field. With the win, Ohio State improves its record to 5-0 win shooting 50 percent or better in field goals.


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