Trailing for the entire second half, the Ohio State men's basketball team twice pulled to within one possession of the visiting Indiana Hoosiers. Three times, they had the ball with a chance to pull even or take the lead.
They had their chances, and the Hoosiers had theirs. As the 59-53 final score indicated, it was the visiting team that capitalized more frequently.
When the OSU pep band broke into Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" with 7:59 remaining, it could not have been more appropriate. Trailing 46-42, the Buckeyes found themselves in a familiar position: unable to put together enough of a sustained run to take the lead and powerless to keep the Hoosiers from doing the same.
It was a theme that carried over until the bitter end. Freshman guard Evan Turner connected on a free throw to pull OSU to within three points with 5:44 left, but Indiana responded with a powerful dunk by senior forward D.J. White, who was fouled by OSU freshman center Kosta Koufos on the play. White finished off the three-point play to push his team's lead back to six, and the lead would get cut back down to four points again before baskets by Armon Bassett and Jordan Crawford pushed it back to eight with 2:36 left.
But the Buckeyes (16-8, 7-4 Big Ten) responded with two baskets in the paint from senior forward Othello Hunter and the late-arriving announced crowd of 19,049 began to stir. Bassett missed a trey and the Buckeyes brought the ball up the court, looking to make it a one-possession game.
After working the ball around, freshman center Kosta Koufos had the ball at the right elbow and looked to make a pass to the opposite corner. Problem was, no one was there, and he awkwardly shoveled the ball to classmate Jon Diebler, who was promptly whistled for traveling.
Indiana (20-3, 9-1) took over and iced the game by making its final six free throws down the stretch.
"It was probably a mental lapse on my part," Koufos said of the play. "I thought I saw someone (open) out of the corner of my eye. It's just a mistake I made."
So it went for the Buckeyes, who remain fifth in the Big Ten standings with the loss.
"We didn't have what we needed today, and when you are playing a team like Indiana, a great basketball team, for whatever reason we … weren't capable of making the plays that we needed to make," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "I thought we played better in the second half but just not enough. They made the plays down the stretch."
Although Koufos finished with 18 points and nine rebounds – both team highs – it was Indiana that held the advantage in the paint. The Hoosiers scored 26 points in the paint to OSU's 16 and were led by White's 21 points on 10 of 15 shooting.
With Indiana playing a zone defense, the Buckeyes frequently settled for three pointers. Of their 43 field goals, 27 were from beyond the arc. Diebler was the team's leader, connecting on 4 of 10. Senior guard Jamar Butler was 0 for 5 from deep and freshman guard Evan Turner was 1 for 5.
White was the star of the game, dunking over both Koufos and OSU senior forward Othello Hunter at various parts of the contest.
"He's a tremendous player," Koufos said of White. "He knows what he's doing. Give him all the credit in the world."
"We're fortunate to have a great senior like D.J. White," IU head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "When you have a senior leader, he's worth his weight in gold. He's why this team continues to progress."
Sampson said he had three keys to beating OSU: limit Hunter on the offensive glass, prevent Butler from heating up and control the glass as a team. Hunter had just two offensive rebounds and Butler was 2 of 8 from the floor, but the teams each had 33 rebounds – 10 offensive and 23 defensive.
Indiana held a 29-21 halftime lead thanks to two baskets by White in the final 1:21 of the half. After the game, the Buckeyes admitted they did not come out with enough energy for the first half, helping add to the Indiana lead.
OSU led just once in the contest when a jumper by Butler at the exact halfway point of the first half made it 14-12 Buckeyes, but a 7-0 ensuing Indiana run put the visitors back on top for good.