Ohio State will try and end a three-game losing streak today when they take on the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington. The Buckeyes have won two straight games against Indiana at Assembly Hall, and have won the last four meetings with the Hoosiers overall, with the most recent victory coming in the second round of the 2019 Big Ten Tournament.
Ohio State wasn’t able to snap out of their recent funk on Tuesday night when they lost to Maryland 67-55 in College Park. The Buckeyes have now lost three straight games, and find themselves near the bottom of the Big Ten standings, 3.5 games behind first place Michigan State. Now Ohio State will have a tough task ahead of them today when they try and snap their losing streak in Bloomington against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Ohio State’s offense continued to struggle on Tuesday night, failing to reach 60 points for the third straight game. The Buckeyes couldn’t get much of anything to fall in College Park, hitting just 31% of their shots, and only five of the 27 three-pointers they attempted. The most notable Buckeye struggling from the field is Duane Washington Jr., who is just 6-25 from three-point range in the four games since returning from injury.
What has hurt Ohio State the most lately has been the absence of Kyle Young, who has missed the last two games after undergoing appendix surgery last Monday. Young may only average 8.3 points per game, but it’s obvious his impact on the floor goes well beyond his scoring. The Ohio State offense flows much better with Young on the floor, opening up things for Kaleb Wesson and the rest of the Buckeyes. Young is strong on the boards on both ends of the floor, which helps Ohio State extend their possessions, as well as limiting the shot attempts of their opponents. It is not yet known if Young will be available for today’s game, as he is a game-time decision.
With C.J. Walker battling an illness on Tuesday, it allowed D.J. Carton to get his first start as a Buckeye. The increased role helped to spark Carton, who had scored just three points in Ohio State’s previous two games. Carton put together his third-best scoring performance in his short time as a Buckeye, scoring 14 points against Maryland. The key for Carton will be building off of Tuesday night’s performance and not reverting back to the form that was seen against West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Joining Carton as the only other Buckeyes to find success on Tuesday night were the Wesson brothers. Kaleb Wesson hit his averages on the season in the loss to Maryland, scoring a team-high 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Andre Wesson worked hard to pick up some of the slack left by the absence of Young, with the senior forward scoring 14 points and pulling down five rebounds.
Ohio State will try and earn not only their first victory of 2020, but also their 1,700th win in school history today in Bloomington, which has not been a friendly place to the scarlet and gray over the years. The Buckeyes are just 27-63 all-time at Assembly Hall, but they have at least had some success lately at the home of the Hoosiers, winning the last two meetings. Indiana holds a 105-81 edge all-time against the Buckeyes, but Ohio State has closed the gap recently, winning the last four overall meetings, with the latest being a 79-75 win in the second round of March’s Big Ten Tournament.
Archie Miller is in his third season as head coach of the Hoosiers, and has Indiana primed for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016, when the Hoosiers made it to the Sweet Sixteen before getting bounced by North Carolina. Miller is looking for his first win against Ohio State as head coach of the Hoosiers, but he can claim a win against the Buckeyes during his time at Dayton, when the Flyers beat Ohio State in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Indiana was on the NCAA Tournament bubble last year before the loss to Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament did the Hoosiers in, relegated them to the NIT. This year the Hoosiers have a chance to decide their tournament fate a lot earlier, as they have started the season 12-3, with wins already over solid teams like Florida State, UConn, and Notre Dame.
The Hoosiers enter today’s game riding a two-game winning streak, with the latest victory coming on Wednesday against Northwestern. Indiana trailed the Wildcats for much of the game, but Archie Miller’s team never quit. The Hoosiers erased a 10-point deficit early in the second half, and found themselves down 59-54 with just over three minutes to go before ending the game on a 12-3 run to earn the victory. Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 21 points to lead the Hoosiers, while Justin Smith added 18 points and Al Durham scored 16 points in the victory.
The biggest concern for Ohio State coming into this game has to be Indiana’s young, talented forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. The freshman is averaging 15.2 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, and 2.1 blocks per game. Jackson-Davis has recorded five double-doubles so far this year, with Indiana earning the win in all five of those games. Jackson-Davis’ most impressive performance during his young career came in the overtime win against Nebraska when he scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
Complimenting Jackson-Davis at forward is Justin Smith, who is averaging 12.2 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. Smith’s 18-point effort in the victory over Northwestern snapped a three-game streak in which the junior forward failed to reach double figures in scoring. The Buckeyes did a good job at holding Smith in check in the two meetings last season, with the forward scoring just eight total points against Ohio State, all of them coming in the regular season meeting in Bloomington.
The senior leadership for the Hoosiers comes from Devonte Green. The guard can be very dangerous when he is on from behind the arc. Last year in their Big Ten Tournament meeting, Green almost willed the Hoosiers to victory over the Buckeyes, hitting eight triples on his way to scoring 26 points. Green missed the first three games of this season, but he has continued his strong shooting from distance, hitting at least three three-pointers in five of the 12 games he has player in this year.
Al Durham started the season hot in Green’s absence, scoring at least 10 points in five of the first six games of the year. Durham hasn’t been as good in the nine games since, but he showed some signs of returning to form last time out. In the three games prior to Wednesday night’s contest against Northwestern, Durham had scored a combined 12 points, but against the Wildcats he scored 16 points, which was his highest scoring total in a month.
The Hoosier that Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann is undoubtedly most familiar with is Joey Brunk, who started his college career at Butler with Holtmann. Brunk came to Indiana this season as a graduate transfer, and he has been a force on the glass lately for the Hoosiers. Brunk has led Indiana in rebounding in each of the last four games, pulling down at least 10 boards in each of those games.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 62.6%
Right now these teams seem to be heading in opposite directions. Ohio State hasn’t won since before Christmas, while the Hoosiers are enjoying their most successful season since Archie Miller took over. So much in this game is going to depend on whether Kyle Young is able to play for Ohio State, and how much he plays if he is cleared to rejoin the team.
The good news for Ohio State is things can’t get much worse than they have been over the past three games. At some point this team is going to break out of their shooting slump and return to how they played early in the season. The move of D.J. Carton into the starting lineup did at least give the Buckeyes a bit of a spark offensively. It’ll be interesting to see if head coach Chris Holtmann keeps Carton in the starting lineup after his performance on Tuesday, or if it only happened because C.J. Walker was under the weather.
With some of the size Indiana possesses, the biggest key of this game is for Kaleb Wesson to stay out of foul trouble. If Wesson’s minutes are limited, it could be trouble for Ohio State as they’ll be forced to try and slow down Trayce Jackson-Davis and keep Joey Brunk off the glass without their best big man. Wesson needs to work and see if he can get some of the fouls that are usually called on him whistled against the key big men for Indiana.
Chris Holtmann has been perfect against Indiana since taking over as coach for the Buckeyes, and today he shows you why he is regarded as one of the best coaches in the country. The Buckeyes know they can’t afford many more conference losses or else they’ll have their backs against the wall in the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State starts to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve put themselves in over the past week with a gritty win over the Hoosiers.