Ohio State will try and build on Sunday’s win over Northwestern when they host an Indiana team that has lost their last two games. To avenge last month’s loss to the Hoosiers, the Buckeyes are going to need some players to step up after D.J. Carton announced on Thursday night he is stepping away from the team to deal with personal matters.
Ohio State took the first step in snapping out of their recent funk on Sunday night when they defeated Northwestern 71-59 in Evanston. Now the Buckeyes will look for a little payback when they host Indiana, a team who defeated them 66-54 in Bloomington three weeks ago. Beating the Hoosiers is no easy task, and the job just got tougher when D.J. Carton announced on Thursday night that he is stepping away from the team to focus on the mental health issues he is dealing with.
The loss of Carton comes after the freshman powered the Buckeyes to a victory over Northwestern on Sunday night, scoring a team-high 17 points off the bench. The guard struggled mightily in losses to West Virginia and Wisconsin, but had looked like he had turned the corner, scoring at least 10 points in four of the last six games. The Buckeyes will now have to find a way to replace Carton’s 10.4 points per game, which ranks third on the team.
For a while against Northwestern it looked like the Buckeyes were going to choke away a solid first half performance, as they trailed the Wildcats 44-41 with just under 15 minutes to go in the game, but Ohio State responded with an 8-0, taking the lead for good to snap a two-game losing streak. Not only was Carton huge off the bench for the Buckeyes, but Justin Ahrens shocked many with his performance, hitting four three-pointers and scoring a season-high 12 points. Overall, Ohio State hit 11 three-pointers against the Wildcats, marking their best output from behind the arc since they hit 11 threes on December 17th against Southeast Missouri State.
Ohio State’s starters were led on Sunday night by the Wesson brothers, with Andre and Kaleb each scoring 11 points. Kaleb Wesson added 10 rebounds to record his eighth double-double of the season, and the 14th double-double of his career. The 10 rebounds the junior grabbed allowed him to tie Jerry Francis for 26th all-time in school history with 576 rebounds. Wesson should be able to jump a couple more spots today, as he is two rebounds shy of passing David Lighty and five rebounds shy of passing Craig Taylor for 24th all-time in school history. The big man is averaging a team-high 13.9 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game this year.
Heading into the first meeting with Indiana this year, Ohio State had suffered three straight losses. The Buckeyes looked like they might have a shot at ending their losing streak early on, taking a 34-31 lead into halftime at Assembly. The second half was a disaster for Ohio State, as they were only able to score 20 points. A D.J. Carton three-pointer gave Ohio State a 45-43 lead with 10:24 to go, but Indiana responded with a 10-0 run to take the lead for good. The victory improved Indiana’s all-time record against Ohio State to 106-81.
Andre Wesson led the way for the Buckeyes in last month’s loss to Indiana, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Kaleb Wesson added 11 points and 10 rebounds, but the junior was just 3-11 from the field. Ohio State had one of their worst shooting performances of the season in the loss to the Hoosiers, shooting just 32.7% from the field. The Buckeyes were also plagued by turnovers in the loss, giving the basketball away to Indiana 16 times.
Devonte Green led the way for Indiana in the win over the Buckeyes, scoring 19 points off the bench. Rob Phinisee added 13 points, seven rebounds, and four steals for the Hoosiers. The outcome was especially surprising considering Indiana’s top two scorers this year struggled against the Buckeyes. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Justin Smith scored six points each. Jackson-Davis didn’t look to get his offense going in the first matchup, attempting just three field goals. Smith wasn’t shy with his shot, but he wasn’t very effective with it, as he was just 2-11 from the field.
Indiana enters today’s game having lost two games in a row. The most recent setback for the Hoosiers was a 64-49 loss to Penn State on Wednesday night in State College. The two teams were tied at 28 at halftime, but the Nittany Lions opened up the second half on a 13-2 run. The Hoosiers didn’t have an answer for the Nittany Lions the rest of the way, failing to get any closer to Penn State than six points the rest of the way.
Trayce Jackson-Davis scored a team-high 14 points, while Justin Smith added 13 points in Wednesday’s loss, but the duo didn’t get any help on the offensive end from their teammates. Devonte Green and Rob Phinisee struggled mightily, shooting a combined 2-16 from the field. Green finished with four points off the bench, while Phinisee was shutout on the scoresheet for the third time this season.
Even though he struggled in the first matchup with Ohio State this year, Trayce Jackson-Davis is putting together a strong first season in Bloomington. The freshman is leading the Hoosiers with 14.0 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game. Justin Smith has been a solid compliment for Jackson-Davis this year, averaging 11.6 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game.
After starting off the season hot, Devonte Green has cooled off considerably lately. The senior guard had reached double figures in scoring in five of his first six games this year, but he has scored over four points in just two of the last seven games, with one of those being his 19-point performance against Ohio State. Even with his recent struggles, Green is still third on the Hoosiers, averaging 10.4 points per game.
Rounding out the Hoosiers who will likely hear their named called frequently today are the other three Indiana players who are averaging over 20 minutes per game. Al Durham is averaging 10.0 points per game and has given Archie Miller steady minutes at guard. Joey Brunk started his career at Butler with Chris Holtmann before coming to Indiana as a graduate transfer. Brunk is averaging 8.2 points per game this year and 6.4 rebounds. Even though Rob Phinisee didn’t score last game, Ohio State knows what he can do on the court. The junior is averaging 6.9 points per game this year, but his value is more than that.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 80.3%
Can Ohio State rally around adversity? The Buckeyes did it a few weeks ago when they beat Nebraska while Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad were suspended. Now Ohio State must deal with filling the void left by D.J. Carton. At least the Buckeyes do have some depth at guard with Washington, Muhammad, and C.J. Walker, who can try and pick up some of the slack. Also, the emergence last game of Justin Ahrens is encouraging for a team that had been struggling to put points on the board.
The Buckeyes have a bit of the edge in this game since they are playing at home. It has been incredibly difficult to win on the road in the Big Ten this year. Indiana has only won one of their five road games in the Big Ten this season. Also. the Hoosiers will be having to deal with a team that knows their backs are against the wall.
Ohio State desperately needs this game, especially with road games against Michigan and Wisconsin on the schedule next. If the Buckeyes can win this game and at least split those two road games, we could see this team re-energized for the final month of the regular season. It won’t be pretty, be Ohio State shows some of that tough defense that was a staple of their team earlier in the season and guts out a win over the Hoosiers.