What a week in the Big Ten. Scratch that, what a weekend in the Big Ten. Ben Brust beats Michigan on Saturday, Indiana goes on the road and gets a big win at Ohio State, and Illinois finishes a strong week with a win at Minnesota on Sunday. You never know what to expect on any given night. I guess that’s why they call it the best conference in college basketball.
12. Penn State (8-15, 0-11) (LAST WEEK: 12) … It seems unlikely the Nittany Lions will ever move out of the conference’s bottom spot. Their last two games were against two of the more beatable teams in the Big Ten — Purdue and Nebraska — and they lost both of them. Now, Penn State plays Michigan twice in the next four games.
11. Nebraska (12-12, 3-8) (LAST WEEK: 11) … Two of Nebraska’s three conference wins have come against Penn State. The third came at home against Northwestern. The Cornhuskers have played some teams tougher of late — they lost to Ohio State by just seven this week — but they have yet to beat a quality team in the conference.
10. Purdue (12-12, 5-6) (LAST WEEK: 10) … They have more Big Ten wins than Northwestern, Illinois and Iowa, but the eye test tells me that the Boilermakers aren’t as good as any of those teams. Their only win in the last four came at Penn State. If Purdue can steal a road game at Illinois or Indiana this week, then it’ll move up in the power rankings.
9. Northwestern (13-11, 4-7) (LAST WEEK: 8) … The Wildcats lost their only game this week, 71-57 at Iowa. Reggie Hearn, though, continues to look like one heck of a college basketball player. You may start to hear his name more going forward.
8. Iowa (15-9, 4-7) (LAST WEEK: 7) … The Hawkeyes are a team I still think could make the Big Dance, especially with their remaining schedule. They still don’t have that signature conference win, but they’re getting closer to getting it. Iowa fell in double overtime at Wisconsin this week.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Indiana bounced back from its third loss of the season the same way it did for the first two: with a victory. The Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2) established control late in the first half and never relinquished it for the program’s first road win over a top 10 conference opponent since 1993.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from IU’s fifth conference road win of the season:
· The Hoosiers closed the door on a big-time opponent: Indiana entered Sunday with four Big Ten road wins, but some still doubted whether this team could deliver a signature victory away from home. Coming off a disappointing loss at Illinois where it blew a 14-point lead in the second half, Indiana needed to beat Ohio State to keep pace at the top of the conference standings and to prove it could bounce back after a tough road loss. The Hoosiers, who never trailed by more than two points, looked like a totally different team down the stretch than the one we saw on Thursday. Instead of just trying to hold on, Indiana kept attacking and eventually demoralized Ohio State with timely buckets and free throws. The end result was the most impressive road win for Indiana under Tom Crean and more importantly, a win that builds confidence with games at Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan still on the slate.
· Indiana is tough to beat when Watford plays like he did Sunday: The Hoosiers are a good team when both Cody Zeller (24 points, eight rebounds) and Victor Oladipo (26 points, eight rebounds) play like they did on Sunday. They’re a great team when Christian Watford plays like he did on Sunday. Watford, who has been inconsistent at times, bounced back from his worst conference game to-date with 20 points and six rebounds. While he’s typically started quickly and struggled in second halves, Watford had 10 points in each half of this game and hit 4-of-5 of his 3-point attempts. The rest of the team went a combined 3-of-13 from distance.
· Indiana was the aggressor and the free throw numbers prove it: When the Hoosiers are playing their best, they’re getting to the foul line frequently and that’s exactly what happened on Sunday. Indiana had a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 57.1 on Sunday and Ohio State was in foul trouble all afternoon. It started inside with Zeller attacking both Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel and IU’s perimeter players were also able to foul out Aaron Craft, who came in averaging just 2.7 fouls per 40 minutes. In all, Indiana made more free throws (22) than the Buckeyes attempted (20). “Amir [Williams] going out early was a big blow to us defensively,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “He has the ability to alter a lot of shots inside and he has been playing well for us. The game also seemed to be called a little tighter, but we just didn’t adjust.” Williams played just 11 minutes on Sunday and blocked only one shot.
Silencing the critics: Hoosiers beat top-10 team on the road
In the days following Indiana’s shocking loss at Illinois on Thursday night, Tom Crean spent a good amount of time trying to teach his team how to close out games. The Hoosiers had squandered a late lead against the Illini, and left Champaign with a heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss.
Crean showed his team film of the last five minutes of several games this season in which the Hoosiers, as Cody Zeller put it, “played for the clock to run out” instead of playing to win.
The Indiana players heard Crean’s message loud and clear, and they applied it in Sunday’s critical 81-68 victory at No. 10 Ohio State.
“We looked so immature, how we handled that last five minutes of the game,” said junior guard Victor Oladipo. “We’re too old for that, even Yogi [Ferrell]. Yogi’s played enough games now that he’s too old for that. We’ve got to make sure that never happens again.”
So when the No. 1 Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2) built a sizable second-half lead on Sunday, they made sure they didn’t let it go. They answered big Ohio State buckets with scores of their own. They controlled the pace, continued to attack the basket, and looked like a team that expected to win on the road against a quality Big Ten opponent.
There have been wins this season that prove the Hoosiers are a different team than they were last year. The Minnesota first half. The Michigan State game. The Michigan game. The North Carolina game. The Purdue game.
Indiana’s win on Sunday is another one, and perhaps the biggest one. The Hoosiers won at home last year. They beat Purdue on the road last year (albeit, not by 37 points). But it had been 13 years since the Hoosiers beat a top 10 team on the road. Coming off their worst loss of the season, the Hoosiers may have just earned the second biggest win in the Tom Crean era (Kentucky: 2011).
“That’s a big deal,” Crean said. “It’s not just beating a ranked team — Ohio State is really, really good. We have, at times, not had the firepower to compete with them, and then last year as we were getting better, we didn’t have the toughness to compete with them in here. But that’s all part of the growth process.”
Backs against the wall after Thursday’s slipup in Champaign, and the Hoosiers put it together for a full 40 in Columbus. There would be no building of a lead only to see it wilt away. There would be no nitpicking about Indiana still missing a quality road win on the resume after this one. The critics have been silenced, and maybe Indiana’s No. 1 ranking is here to stay.
We whine about Cody Zeller not getting enough touches, whine about his teammates not looking for him and him not looking for the ball, but not today. Zeller was aggressive from the opening tip and went after Amir Williams time and again, getting him into foul trouble (four) and forcing Thad Matta to play his reserves more with Williams only logging 11 minutes. Zeller not only was doing things on both blocks — the hook in the lane, the turn to the baseline stepback jumper — but he hit a crucial 17-footer from the baseline in the second half after a Christian Watford offensive rebound kept the possession for Indiana, making sure Ohio State wouldn’t get back in this one. And because he was being so aggressive, Zeller got to the line a ton and converted (8-of-11). He finished the afternoon with 24 points (8-of-11 shooting), eight rebounds and a block.
But Indiana would also get huge offensive contributions from Victor Oladipo (career-high 26 points, 8-of-10 from the field, 9-of-10 from the line) and Christian Watford (20 points). Oladipo scored from all areas of the floor (beyond the arc, at the rim and in the mid-range) and just continues to shine as one of the elite players in all of college basketball. At one point in the first, Oladipo caught an oop from Jordan Hulls and scored it on the other side of the rim. He followed that up with an offensive rebound where he knifed down the lane and dunked it home with authority.
Watford hit some huge 3-pointers including one the Indiana possession before Zeller’s aforementioned jumper which kept the Buckeyes at bay. The normally even-keeled Watford also showed a rare bit of fire late, slamming the ball to the ground after a late LaQuinton Ross foul ended up with Ross slapping down for the ball and catching Watford across the face.
Three strong individual performances for the Hoosiers, but perhaps most impressive was the collective effort in the halfcourt. Like we saw against the Illini on Thursday, the Hoosiers didn’t get much of anything going in transition — just eight fastbreak points this afternoon — and so they’d have to make their mark in the halfcourt against the 11th best defense in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pom. And that they did. Sometimes it was the sharing of the ball and the bleeding of the shot clock until the Hoosiers found a good shot. Other times — as Clark Kellogg described it — the Hoosiers went smashmouth, getting Zeller the ball and letting him go to work. He would either find the contact and get to the line or convert the basket.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Indiana coach Tom Crean met with the media following the Hoosiers 81-68 win over No. 10 Ohio State on Sunday afternoon at Value City Arena.
Watch and listen to his postgame comments in the embedded media player below:
HD Video: Oladipo, Zeller react to win at Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Victor Oladipo (career-high 26 points, eight rebounds) and Cody Zeller (24 points, eight rebounds) met with the media following Indiana’s 81-68 win over No. 10 Ohio State on Sunday at Value City Arena.
Watch and listen to the postgame reaction from both players in the embedded media players below:
After loss at Illinois, Hoosiers prepare for another road test at Ohio State
Two days after Indiana’s disappointing loss at Illinois, Tom Crean still felt like his team had wasted a great opportunity for a conference road win. But Crean knew it was important for his team to immediately shift its focus to Sunday’s opponent, Ohio State.
The No. 1 Hoosiers practiced longer than usual on Friday and also had a lengthy team meeting to discuss what went wrong in Champaign and what needs to be improved before they take on the No. 10 Buckeyes.
“If we’re going to be good, it’s not about bouncing back, it’s about making sure that you’re getting better,” Crean said Saturday. “Because if you spend a lot of time bouncing back and worrying about your mentality, then all of a sudden that cuts into your preparation, that cuts into what you need to do to win the game. We’ve been really good with that. They were really down the other night and we knew that we had some squandered opportunities.”
In Friday’s lengthy practice and then again on Saturday, Crean used Victor Oladipo to guard Yogi Ferrell and simulate the defense of Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. There’s no doubting the fact Ohio State is a very capable offensive team, but Crean spent most of his time Saturday talking about the Buckeyes’ defense. And that starts with the pesky Craft.
“He gets into your body. He’s got quick feet, quick hands,” Crean said. “He’s extremely physical on the ball, and he gets up into you, he uses his hands very well. He’s got the respect of the officials, I think that’s certain. But his athleticism is really unique with his foot speed and his hand speed.”
Added Ferrell: “I know he’s a great defender so I can’t really play with the ball. I’ve definitely seen him get up into guys, and that’s what he’s gonna do. He’s as quick as me as well, so I might try to use my speed as an advantage, but I know he’s definitely going to want to turn the ball over.”
Tom Crean and Yogi Ferrell met with the media Saturday afternoon to preview Sunday’s game at Ohio State.
Watch both press conferences in the embedded media players below:
What to Expect: Ohio State
Indiana continues a two-game roadtrip on Sunday afternoon in Columbus as the No. 1 Hoosiers meet No. 10 Ohio State at Value City Arena. The two teams split their series a season ago with Indiana prevailing in Bloomington and Ohio State winning in Columbus.
The game will be broadcast on CBS at 1 p.m. with Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg on the call:
Sunday’s meeting with Ohio State will be billed as Indiana’s most important game of the season thus far and it’s hard to argue that assertion given what transpired Thursday night in Champaign. Instead of taking the floor with a 5-0 league record on the road and a one-game lead in the conference standings, the hiccup against Illinois puts this game in the must-win category if Indiana hopes to stay in a favorable position for the Big Ten title. The Hoosiers still have trips to Michigan State and Michigan on the slate and those are the two teams currently tied with IU for first atop of the conference.
Ohio State’s stalwarts from last season’s Final Four team — Jared Sullinger (NBA, Boston Celtics) and William Buford (graduation, Spain) — have moved on, but the Buckeyes are once again in the thick of the Big Ten race. Under Thad Matta, Ohio State has captured at least a piece of the league title for three consecutive seasons and this team, which started in the preseason top five, has performed reasonably well with a 17-5 record overall and a 7-3 mark in league play.
The centerpiece, at least offensively, is 6-foot-7 junior Deshaun Thomas, who is finally the go-to-guy in Columbus. Thomas, a former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, uses 26.7 of Ohio State’s possessions and is shooting 50 percent on his twos and 40 percent on his threes. In league play, he’s the only Buckeye scoring in double figures at 20.0 points per game. It’ll be interesting to see how Indiana chooses to approach Thomas defensively as slowing him down will be pivotal to holding Ohio State down offensively. Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey and Christian Watford all seem like logical candidates to get a shot at Thomas.
In the backcourt, the Buckeyes defensive prowess is centered heavily around Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and to a lesser extent, Lenzelle Smith Jr. Craft has the ability to cause major havoc with his defense and Scott, who’s playing close to 18 minutes a game in conference play off the bench, has the 15th best steal rate in the country. Neither guy has played particularly well offensively as Craft shoots just 31 percent on threes and Scott, who paces the club in assist rate, has an effective field goal percentage of just 43.6. Smith is the biggest offensive threat of the trio and it was his hot shooting that caused major problems for Indiana last January in Columbus. At 6-foot-4, Smith is a tough matchup for IU’s smaller backcourt and he’s the team leader in 3-point field goal percentage (41.5).
Sam Thompson, an ultra athletic sophomore, starts on the wing but his classmate LaQuinton Ross played outstanding in Ohio State’s loss at Michigan on Tuesday with 16 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes. Given the Buckeyes offensive struggles, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ross continue to earning more playing time. Like Thomas, he uses a lot of possessions and is efficient. In limited minutes, Ross is shooting close to 40 percent on threes and 50.2 percent on twos.
The void left by Sullinger is being filled by Amir Williams, a former McDonald’s All-American and Evan Ravenel, a big body who is the team’s most effective defensive rebounder. At 6-foot-11, Williams boasts the 17th-best block rate in the country and is a highly effective offensive rebounder (13.4 OR%). Both Williams and Ravenel can be foul prone at times and Ohio State’s frontline depth beyond those two is very thin.
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