The No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes entered Saturday’s action still looking for their first win in the new year. With the Big Ten Conference shaping up to be a dogfight from top to bottom, things were not going to get any easier for Chris Holtmann’s squad anytime soon. They would have to try and find a way to stop the skid against a talented Indiana Hoosiers team. To make things even tougher, the Buckeyes were facing off against the 12-3 Hoosiers on the road at Assembly Hall — one of the most raucous arenas in the country.
Outside of overcoming a hostile environment, Ohio State was also tasked with overcoming the shooting woes that have plagued them during the three-game losing streak. Over the winless stretch, the Buckeyes shot a poor 34 percent from the field, and an even poorer 26.8 percent from three-point range. After averaging 79.2 points per game over their first 12 contests, the team has been averaging just 57 during the three-game skid. Turnovers have also been a huge issue, averaging 16.3 per outing during the slide.
As you likely know, the ship would not be righted on Saturday, as Ohio State lost its fourth-straight game, this time a 66-54 defeat at the hands of the Hoosiers in Bloomington. The same problems that have plagued the Buckeyes over the past few weeks reared their ugly heads once again, as turnovers and a poor offensive output paved the way for another crushing defeat. Now 11-5 on the year, OSU finds itself second to last in the Big Ten at 1-4 in conference play, ahead of just 0-4 Northwestern.
Lets take a look at some of the things we learned during Saturday’s action.
Kyle Young is toughness personified
Less than two full weeks after needing surgery to remove his appendix, OSU starting forward Kyle Young returned to the starting lineup on Saturday against the Hoosiers. After experiencing what Holtmann described as stomach issues before the team’s game against West Virginia, Young would try and tough it out. He still played 22 minutes against the Mountaineers, but was clearly not himself, scoring just two points but still pulling in 11 rebounds.
That same night, Young would have to have his appendix removed, and would be out indefinitely following the procedure. Ohio State has not been the same team without the forward on the floor. Outside of the obvious size it loses under the rim without the 6-foot-8 junior, Young brings with him an infectious energy and level of effort that really seems to bring the rest of the team to the next level. Despite not being allowed to perform any physical activity since the surgery, Young was cleared to play and was back in the starting lineup against Indiana.
Young did not appear to be at full strength following his two-game absence, but he was at least making his presence felt all over the floor. It was a very welcomed sight to see the forward out there diving for 50/50 balls and snagging some tough rebounds. It wasn’t enough to get the Buckeyes back to their winning ways, but Young’s presence the rest of the way will be very important in the team getting back on track.
Defense dodgy from deep
One trend in almost all of Ohio State’s losses this season has been poor defense at the three-point line. Besides the Wisconsin game, the Buckeyes have allowed their opponents to shoot over 36 percent from beyond the arc in every other defeat. Minnesota, OSU’s first loss of the season, knocked down just 7-of-19 (36.8 percent), but things have gotten even worse during the current skid. West Virginia hit on 8-of-20 (40 percent) from downtown, and Maryland shot a hot 8-of-18 (44 percent) from deep.
The Buckeyes likely weren't expecting a three-point barrage from Indiana, as the Hoosiers entered the game ranked 13th in the Big Ten in shooting percentage from beyond the arc. However, it certainly didn’t appear that way to start, as Ohio State’s deep-ball defense looked vulnerable yet again. Indiana opened up the game knocking down its first three shots from distance, with all three courtesy of guard Rob Phinisee. The threes really set the tone early on as Phinisee helped the Hoosiers jump out to a quick 13-5 lead.
The hot shooting from deep continued in the second half, as OSU failed to close out on shooters time and time again. While Indiana did not shoot a large volume of three-pointers, they made the most of every opportunity, knocking down 50 percent (6-of-12) from downtown. The Buckeye defense was lockdown from all spots to start the year, but defending the three-point line is increasing becoming a major factor in all of these losses. With the Hoosiers entering play ranked 290th in the country in three-point percentage, this defensive performance was particularly ugly.
At the other end
On the other side of the three-point coin, the Buckeyes have been trending downward in their shooting from deep. OSU had been pretty decent hitting from beyond the arc on the season, making around 38 percent from range heading into Saturday’s contest. However, that number has been steady declining as all aspects of the game have been a struggle from Holtmann’s squad during the losing streak. It all came to a head against Maryland, when the Bucks shot an awful 19 percent (5-of-27) from beyond the arc.
Ohio State had actually been getting relatively good looks from three-point range, even against the Terrapins, but the shots were just not falling. Against the Hoosiers, things were much better — at least to start. In the first half, the Buckeyes knocked down over half of their three-balls, shooting 7-of-12 (58 percent) from range.
The Wesson brothers each knocked down a pair, while D.J. Carton, Luther Muhammad and CJ Walker drilled one apiece. It had to be an especially good feeling for Muhammad to get one to fall, as he had been 1-of-14 from deep over the three-game spell.
Then, the second half started, and Ohio State once again fell off of a cliff from three-point land. The Buckeyes could not get anything to fall after halftime, hitting just 2-of-14 shots from deep (an ugly 14 percent). Overall, the team shot just 21 percent from the field in the second half, and — as has been the case over the course of this really bad skid — the offense just looks completely out of sorts in almost every aspect.
Trying to limit the damage
As mentioned in the open, turnovers have been a huge problem for this Ohio State team — really all season long, but especially so during the losing streak. The Buckeyes have been bad when it comes to giving the ball away, sitting at No. 164 in all of D1 basketball with 207 total turnovers (equalling out to almost 14 a game). Things have been just about the same when it comes to conference play, with that number hovering around 13 turnovers per game against Big Ten opponents.
While OSU clearly had not fixed its turnovers issues against the Hoosiers — giving the ball away eight times in the first half alone — they were doing a good job of limiting the damage caused by those turnovers. Even with the eight giveaways, Ohio State had held Indiana to just four points off of its mistakes in the opening period. The Hoosiers were not able to capitalize on turnovers thanks to some impressive transition defense by the Buckeyes, including a pair of blocks in the first half. As with all good things from Saturday’s first half, this would not continue.
The turnovers did not stop in the second half, but neither did the Hoosiers at the other end. Overall, the Buckeyes turned the ball over a whopping 16 times, the second-most turnovers in a game for the team all season along. Indiana’s 14 points off of those turnovers were obviously a big factor in the 12-point loss. If Ohio State wants to go anywhere this season, they must figure out how to stop the dreadful turnover woes.
Where was Washington?
An interesting development in this game was the usage of Duane Washington Jr. The sophomore guard has been Ohio State’s second-leading scorer on the year averaging 11.4 points per game, but has not quite been himself since suffering a rib injury earlier in the year. While his play — and three-point shooting — has not been as exceptional as it was to begin the season, Washington has still been one of the Buckeyes’ only guards putting up points during this three-game spell, even with his shooting percentage dipping dramatically.
Against Indiana, Washington was benched with 10 minutes remaining in the first period. It appeared that the sophomore missed a defensive assignment early on, allowing his man to cut to the basket uncontested and resulting in free throws for the Hoosiers. Washington sat out the remainder of the first period, and did not return at any point in the second half.
It is unclear if the defensive effort by Washington was what kept out of the majority of the contest, but Ohio State certainly could have used some of his scoring ability. Prior to his benching, the guard had scored just two points at the free throw line without a field goal attempt in the box score. On the year, Washington has averaged around 24 minutes per game while shooting around 44 percent from three-point range. Over the past three games, however, he was just 6-of-20 from deep.