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Ohio State men’s basketball vs. Indiana: Game preview, prediction

The Buckeyes look to stay undefeated in February when they take on the Hoosiers.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in the Chris Holtmann era, the Buckeyes (15-7, 5-6) were finally able to get a win against Penn State, coming away with a gritty 74-70 win on their home floor. Now having won two of the last three games, Ohio State will travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers (13-10, 4-8) at Assembly Hall. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CBS.


Preview

Ohio State finally defeated the Nittany Lions on Thursday night after not doing so in all three tries a season ago. In a game that came down to the final buzzer, the Buckeyes were led by Luther Muhammad. The freshman finished with 20 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Once again, Kaleb Wesson struggled to stay on the floor, hurting himself with foul trouble the majority of the night before fouling out with 1:45 remaining. The sophomore forward would finish with just six points.

One of the biggest stories of the game was the surprise return of forward Kyle Young, who had missed the team’s previous four games with a stress fracture in his leg. Especially with Wesson in foul trouble, Young was an essential part of the Buckeyes victory. The sophomore played 25 minutes, scoring six points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks, helping to clog the paint when Wesson was forced to sit. Young also scored the go-ahead basket with 63 seconds remaining that would put OSU on top for good.

Despite his fouling woes and low scoring output on the night, Ohio State continued to be a much better team with Kaleb Wesson on the floor. Playing only 19 minutes in the game, Wesson finished with a team-high plus/minus of +16. Even when he isn't putting up 20 points a night, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Wesson is a physical presence that has to be dealt with on both sides of the floor. As a big scoring threat inside, he almost always draws a double that provides an open shot for a teammate. At the other end, his huge frame makes it incredibly difficult to get good looks inside. If Ohio State wants to continue to find success, Wesson must be able to stay on the floor.

The Buckeyes got the job done in the first act of this three-game stretch of very winnable contests. A loss to Penn State would have certainly put their tournament odds in jeopardy. Now, they head on the road to take on an Indiana team also fighting for its tournament life before returning home to face a 9-15 Illinois. Ohio State must continue to handle business over this stretch of games, because the road ahead does not get any easier, with four of five games against ranked opponents following the bout with the Illini. For now, OSU just has to focus on getting a road win against the Hoosiers.

Indiana started off the season 12-2, but it all came crashing down upon entering conference play. After a 74-63 loss to Michigan in the beginning of January, the Hoosiers went on to lose seven straight games before a shocking 79-75 overtime upset win over Michigan State in East Lansing. The win over Sparty has really been the only bright spot for Indiana in 2019, as they are currently losers of eight of their last nine games, falling to Iowa 77-72 in their last time out.

Despite shooting nearly 50 percent in the game, the Hoosiers fell just short of the Hawkeyes on Thursday night in Bloomington. Romeo Langford did his best to try and will his team to a win, dropping 22 points and five rebounds, but it was not enough to counter Jordan Bohannon’s takeover in the final minute of the game for Iowa. The junior scored the last 11 points for the Hawkeyes, including two deep three-pointers with time winding down on the shot clock. Juwan Morgan also had a really good night for Indiana, scoring 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, but it wasn’t enough to stop Iowa from getting its first win in Assembly Hall since 2015.

Langford, a freshman, has been the Hoosiers leading scorer all season long, averaging 17.6 points per game and over five rebounds. It is no surprise the young 6-foot-5 guard is having a stellar first season, as he was the seventh overall player in the 2018 class (247sports), just two spots behind Zion Williamson, and the No. 1 player out of the state of Indiana. Just behind him on the roster is Morgan, as the senior is averaging 15.9 points per game to go along with almost eight boards and 1.4 blocks per game.

Despite their struggles, the Hoosiers are not a team that Ohio State should take lightly. Given their current situation, this game is as much of a must-win for them, if not more, than it is for the Buckeyes, as each additional loss pushes them farther and farther away from a chance at making the tournament. Indiana showed flashes of great basketball against Iowa, and even outplayed them during large stretches of the contest, but were unable to put together a full 40-minute performance to get the win. If they learn from their mistakes against the Hawkeyes, the Hoosiers will be a tough opponent, especially with the crowd on their side.


Prediction

ESPN BPI: Indiana 62.8%

Vegas Line: Indiana -2

The Hoosiers have had the Buckeyes’ number throughout the history of this Big Ten matchup, leading the all-time series 105-79. While Ohio State owns a 53-36 record in Columbus, Indiana is a whopping 63-26 in Bloomington against the Scarlet and Gray. C.J. Jackson is OSU’s leading scorer against the Hoosiers, averaging 13.7 points in three career appearances in the matchup. Kaleb Wesson averaged 13 points in both meetings between the two teams a season ago, with Ohio State winning both contests.

Langford is going to be a lot to handle for the Buckeye defense, but it will be an exciting freshman-on-freshman matchup between himself and Muhammad. Speaking of Muhammad, it is looking more and more each game like he will have to become Ohio State’s go-to scorer in times of need, especially when Wesson is not on the floor. He will have to have another high-scoring outburst if the Bucks want to escape with a win in this one.

Ultimately, as it usually does, the game will come down to Wesson and managing his fouls. Ohio State was able to get away with it against a spiraling Penn State team, but they will not survive against the Hoosiers with their best player on the bench. They will need his defensive presence inside to limit the damage by Langford and Morgan. As was the case for both teams in their last time out, we will have another gritty, down-to-the-wire Big Ten matchup on our hands. When the final buzzer sounds, it will be Ohio State emerging victorious, thanks in part to a good shooting performance by Keyshawn Woods.

LGHL Final Score Prediction: 69-67 Ohio State