In a battle of first-year, Big Ten coaches, the No. 17 Ohio State Buckeyes knocked off the Indiana Hoosiers, 71-56 at the Value City Arena. There is a different timeline out there in which OSU athletic director Gene Smith decided to fire Thad Matta earlier than he eventually did, and Archie Miller ended up the new Buckeye coach, instead of taking over the Hoosiers, paving the way for Chris Holtmann to come to Columbus. At this point, you would likely be hard-pressed to find many Buckeye fans who don’t prefer our current reality to what might have been.
Tonight’s matchup of supposed rivals showed the best of Ohio State so far this season, as multiple players were involved from very early on; the team collectively shot extremely well, and the ball movement continually kept the IU defense on its heels, and the ball in the hands of the Buckeye with the best chance to score.
Nearly everything was working early for OSU. On the strength of a 10-0 run, Ohio State went into the first media timeout up 14-5. Jae’Sean Tate led the way with six early points, and Keita Bates-Diop had already picked up a bucket, two assists, a rebound, and a blocked shot.
The unselfishness that the team showed allowed seven Buckeyes to get into the scoring column in the first nine minutes of the game. Sophomore forward Micah Potter appeared to finally be healthy and playing at the level that many people had hoped he could reach after an up-and-down freshman campaign.
Potter picked up an old-fashioned three-point play just before the halfway point in the first half, which gave Ohio State a 25-10 lead. A little more than a minute later, Tate hit a jumper that hit the rim about five times before falling to give the Bucks a second 10-0 run of the game.
However, the streak was broken on the subsequent possession by Indiana’s Justin Smith who was fouled in the act, but was unable to hit the ensuing free-throw.
Ohio State seemed intent to get the ball inside to Kaleb Wesson in the first half, running sets specifically to set him up 1-on-1 down low. Wesson picked up 10 points in his first 10 minutes of action on 5-for-5 shooting, while also picking up three boards and only one foul.
IU’s Juwan Morgan was nearly singlehandedly keeping the Hoosiers in the game. The junior had 11 points, three boards, and two assists in the first half.
With just over a minute left, Andre Wesson delivered an over-head, two-handed pass to C.J. Jackson in the corner, who then hit a three to put OSU up 38-23, forcing Miller to call a timeout to get the best shot possible. However, after a tie-up gave possession back to the Hoosiers, Zach McRoberts missed a jumper, giving the ball back to the home team. But, the missed opportunities continued—this time, after a timeout, with just seconds left before halftime, Andrew Dakich threw the ball away cross court as Jackson broke back towards the inbounder, but ultimately away from the ball, which bounced out of bounds.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers weren’t able to capitalize, and the teams went into the locker room at 38-23. Morgan led all scorers with 11 of his team’s 23 points in the half. Robert Johnson, who is IU’s second leading scorer on the season, did not score in the first 20 minutes, going 0-for-3.
Kaleb Wesson was the top man for the Buckeyes, but Tate also had eight, and Bates-Diop and Jackson each had six. The real difference in the half was the shooting, as OSU was 17-27 (63%), while the Hoosiers were just 9-27 (33.3%). The Buckeyes also maintained a healthy lead in rebounding (19-10), and perhaps because of that, out-scored Indiana 22-12 in the paint in the first half.
During a timeout in the first half, members of the Ohio State football team were on hand to be recognized.
The second half started much like most of the first, as OSU got two quick buckets, both layups from Tate. Then after a Morgan bucket, Kaleb Wesson hit Kam Williams on a back cut before the guard slammed it home.
After a pair of IU buckets, Williams and Potter hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Ohio State a 20-point lead, 52-32. With around 13 minutes left in the game, Bates-Diop went to the locker room after appearing to stretch his left groin. However, the balanced attack that the Buckeyes had been employing all game kept them in a fairly sizable lead during KBD’s short absence.
In recent games, Bates-Diop has started slow fairly regularly. However, in most cases, he turns it on late in the game, especially when the outcome is in doubt. KBD has been dealing with illness and now apparently a groin issue, but thus far, he has been able to maintain his lead in the Big Ten scoring race.
The Hoosiers continued to fight, trying to claw back into the game, however, they have been let down at the charity stripe, where they went 2-7 through the first 15 and a half minutes in the second half, which only exacerbated the shooting issues that they were experiencing from the floor.
Devonte Green hit a triple with 3:05 left in regulation that brought the Buckeye advantage to 63-51, however, a pair of free-throws and a layup by Jackson kept the home team in the lead for the duration.
While he didn’t get up to the 19.9 that he’s been averaging this season, Bates-Diop did get into double figures with an emphatic slam with 1:35 left, just moments before picking up his fourth blocked shot of the game on an Aljami Durham three-pointer. With a game-high 12 rebounds on the night, KBD picked up his ninth double-double of the season.
Four Buckeyes ended up scoring in double-digits, Tate (16), Kaleb Wesson (14), Bates-Diop (13), and Jackson (10). Conversely, Green led all scorers with 20 points, 15 of which he had after halftime. Morgan, who dominated the first 20 minutes for IU had only four after the break.
Ohio State ended the night with 40 points in the paint and 39 rebounds, while the Hoosiers had 26 in both categories.
The Buckeyes will wrap up a four-game home stand on Sunday, Feb. 4 at noon ET against the Illinois Fighting Illini. The game will be broadcast on FS1.