Unlucky Number Seven

Once again, Ohio State found itself in position to pull out a key victory against a quality opponent. But once again, the Buckeyes found themselves lacking when they needed a big play to be made and again came out on the wrong end of a close game, this time at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It might be time to break out the four-leaf clovers.

Prior to his team's road contest with Indiana, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta told reporters that his team's inability to come up with big plays down the stretch of close games was, at least in part, due to a lack of luck going their way.

Call it luck, call it fate, or call it a case of simply having a team too young to go into Assembly Hall and come away with a victory, OSU again found itself on the short end of a 72-69 decision.

The loss is OSU's third in a row, fifth in the last seven games and fourth suffered by six points or less during that stretch.

"We dug a whole we couldn't get out of," Matta said. "(But) I'm pleased with how they continued to fight and put us in a position to have a shot to win the game."

But oh, did they have their chances. After trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half, the Buckeyes used a 13-2 run that began in the first half to pull within two points, 32-30, with 15:39 remaining in the second half.

From there, OSU (17-11, 8-7 Big Ten) had four opportunities to either tie the game or take the lead. Each time, they faltered.

Trailing 34-32 with around 15 minutes remaining in the game, senior guard Jamar Butler had a three-pointer rim out. Indiana scored on its next possession on a jumper by Jordan Crawford, pushing the lead back to four points.

Four minutes later, OSU was pushing the ball following a blocked shot by freshman center Kosta Koufos, but freshman guard Jon Diebler was whistled for traveling as he tried to set his feet at the three-point arc. Indiana senior center D.J. White converted a free throw at the other end, and a jumper by Koufos made it a one-point game, 42-41, with 10:57 remaining.

Indiana countered with a basket by White, who dunked in his own miss, and a trey by guard Armon Basett, pushing the lead back to six points. Sandwiched in between those baskets was a missed three-pointer taken by Diebler.

Finally, with less than seven minutes remaining, Indiana freshman guard Eric Gordon was stripped by OSU freshman guard Evan Turner, giving the Buckeyes a fast break while trailing by three points.

Turner, Butler and sophomore swingman David Lighty all had the ball near the basket, but Butler made an extra pass Turner was not prepared for and the ball glanced off his hands.

A layup at the other end by Indiana's Jamarcus Ellis pushed the lead back to five with 5:56 remaining. From there, the Buckeyes would cut it to two on a three-point play by Turner but could not come up with an equalizer when Indiana (24-4, 13-2) immediately countered with a trey by Bassett.

Had they taken the lead at any one of those points, Turner said he believes the final outcome would have been much different.

"We would've won," he said. "We started hammering away when we were losing. Our stuff was legit. Their stuff was, ‘Oh look, the ball dropped and we scored.' People were hitting threes that never hit shots before. They got a couple of calls.

"If we were fortunate enough to get up, I think we would've finished the game off."

It all added up to yet another frustrating loss for the Buckeyes, who are one half-game ahead of Minnesota and clinging to the fifth spot in the conference.

However, Matta did not seem dejected following the game. That likely had a lot to do with the fact that the Buckeyes outscored Indiana 48-42 in the final 20 minutes, outrebounded them 17-14 and outplayed them for large stretches of the contest.

A lot of that had to do with the play of Koufos, who exploded for 18 second-half points after having just three in the first. As the Buckeyes fought back, Koufos scored 15 of the team's first 20 points in the second half.

His final basket during that stretch was a baseline jumper that made the score 42-41 Indiana with 10:57 remaining.

"The guards did a great job," Koufos said. "I was fortunate enough to get great guards who executed the plays. They caught me in great positions."

With the benefit of an offense that was flowing through him for large swatches of the game, Koufos finished with a team-high 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting. He was aided by Turner's 13 points, while Butler and senior forward Othello Hunter added 12 each. Turner also kicked in a team-high seven rebounds.

The first half was not pretty for the Buckeyes. After a Koufos trey gave them the initial 3-0 lead, Indiana used its noticeable advantage on the boards to roar back with 10 unanswered points. At the first media timeout, Indiana had already grabbed five offensive rebounds compared to OSU's zero.

It did not appear to be a pleasant break for the OSU players, as both Matta and associate head coach John Groce could both be seen yelling at their charges during the huddle. The message was apparently a simple one.

"He just said to work harder, have some pride and have fun," Koufos said. "He just wants us to play hard. That's all he asks."

The Buckeyes trailed by just nine points at the half in large part due to Indiana's inability to connect from beyond the three-point arc. The Hoosiers were just 3 of 16 (18.8 percent) from beyond the arc. However, they held a 25-17 advantage on the glass and had 12 offensive rebounds to OSU's seven.

"When we first went down, that's when they had the confidence," Turner said. "The first 10 minutes of the game, they had the confidence. We couldn't make anything. We couldn't get a break at first."

As a team, the Buckeyes had six turnovers and just four assists in the first 20 minutes. Indiana countered with five assists and seven turnovers in what was a difficult first half for both teams.

The game marked the first home contest for interim Indiana head coach Dan Dakich, who took over after Kelvin Sampson resigned last week. Upon his arrival on the court prior to the game, he was treated to an ovation from the late-arriving crowd of 17,389.

He said he hopes that the "interim" part of his title will be removed at some point.

"If you don't' want to coach in Indiana, you really don't want to coach," he said.

Indiana was led by Bassett, who finished with 23 points on 7 of 11 shooting. Freshman guard Eric Gordon had 17 points but was just 4 of 16 from the field, while White added 16 while battling cramps for much of the game.

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