After beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road in dramatic fashion earlier this week, the Buckeyes head to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Buckeyes rode a hot shooting night from freshman phenom D'Angelo Russell to a win in Minneapolis, but it was Marc Loving's last-minute three-pointer that sent the Buckeyes back to Columbus as victors. Loving finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
Ohio State will need that kind of offensive output to leave Indiana with a win. The Hoosiers are are the ninth-highest scoring team in the country, and are paced by a great player in junior guard Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell has the best shooting percentage of his career so far in this young season, and an Indiana team that is a few years and a few players removed from the squad that looked on pace to compete for a national championship will lean on him heavily throughout the 2014-15 season.
So far, the Buckeyes and the Hoosiers have faced a single common opponent: the impressive Louisville Cardinals, ranked fifth in the nation. Both Ohio State and Indiana were felled by Rick Pitino's squad, though Thad Matta's young team kept things much closer (albeit after the game looked out of hand early), losing by 9 points in a game in which Louisville's stifling, athletic defense gave them fits. The Hoosiers, however, were on the losing side of a 20 point beating.
Speaking of defense, Ohio State gained some steam against Minnesota by abandoning the 2-3 zone. Thad Matta has been experimenting with it all season, with mixed results so far. UNC exploited the zone big time last month, and this young Buckeye team has had some growing pains on the defensive end of the court as Matta has attempted to add new wrinkles on D in the absence of Aaron Craft. Look for a mix of zone and man-to-man sets from the Buckeyes against Indiana.
Numbers To Know
The Hoosiers and the Buckeyes are nationally ranked 9 and 10, respectively, in scoring average -- Indiana puts up 82.9 points per game, while Ohio State posts 82.8. With so little separation between the two offenses, this game could very well come down to the final handful of possessions. Look for the Hoosiers to get the ball in the hands of Ferrell or dynamic freshman guard James Blackmon, Jr. if they need buckets late. Blackmon and Ferrell lead the team in scoring, and both put up respectable averages from long range.
Gone are the days of clunky, bad shot selection in Columbus. The Buckeyes are shooting 52.2% from the floor this year, placing them at third in the country in that category. The Hoosiers, who are shooting 48.2% as a team this season, come in at number twenty-six by that same measure. What does that mean for the matchup? If Ohio State can protect the ball and not give away possessions, they've got a puncher's chance of shooting Indiana out of the gym.
That's how many combined wins these two teams have against currently ranked opponents this season. The Buckeyes have had two chances to get the job done, but came up short in both of those contests, losing to No. 5 Louisville earlier this season and No. 18 UNC last month. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, have played just one game against a current top-25 team, the same Cardinals team that beat Ohio State. Indiana actually beat two teams that were ranked at the time (SMU and Butler), but both of those squads have since fallen out of the standings. Both Indiana and Ohio State are in need of a quality win: it's never too early to start preparing the résumé for March.
Cast of Characters
Aaron Craft isn't walking through that door, but that doesn't mean that the Buckeyes are devoid of veteran leadership on the court. Senior guard Shannon Scott has stepped up his game this season, directing an Ohio State team populated by talented young players. Scott is averaging 7.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game, positively Craftian numbers. The comparisons don't stop there, either. Scott hasn't been a productive scorer this season, posting fewer than eight points per game. But the Buckeyes haven't really needed him to be, thanks to the scoring presence of their young stars. Scott played a team-high 44 minutes against Minnesota.
Late-game heroics notwithstanding, the sophomore forward has been remarkably steady all season on the offensive end. The points log for Loving's last five games: 16, 13, 10, 13, 13. He's not the most explosive player on the court for Ohio State, but it really appears as though Loving is coming into his own. The Buckeyes could use another steady offensive performance from Loving, since they'll be tasked with keeping pace with a Hoosier offense that can score just as consistently as they can.
Unlike the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers play without a traditional center. Instead, they throw out a rotation of three or four forwards, and Mosquera-Perea is the biggest of the bunch. He's 6'9 and weighs 225 pounds. Originally hailing from Colombia, Mosquera-Perea will match up against Amir Williams down low, and could be poised to take advantage of Williams' recent struggles.
James Blackmon, Jr.
Blackmon is only a freshman, but he's already established himself as one of the most indispensable players on this Hoosier team. He paces all Indiana players in scoring, with 16.6 points per game, and plays almost 30 minutes a night. Blackmon had an abysmal night against Michigan State in Indiana's last game, going just 1-14 from the floor against the Spartans in a game in which the Hoosiers desperately needed buckets, so look for him to try to rebound from that performance against Ohio State.
How to Watch/Stream
TV: 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
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