Thoughts on a 74-70 win over the Buckeyes:
For about the first 30 minutes tonight, this game was devoid of flow.
Whistles dominated. And key players found themselves in foul trouble. The Buckeyes’ top three scorers — Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and William Buford — all ended the contest with four fouls. Thomas and Sullinger sat for a large chunk of the first half with two early ones each. As a result, the Hoosiers went on a 23-13 run after Sullinger left with his second foul and went into the locker room with a 33-32 lead. Cody Zeller, for the first time this season, fouled out with 2:24 to go in the game. It all affected defense. Often, Sullinger, Thomas and Buford — not wanting to pick up another foul — played off Indiana some and allowed them to get buckets at the rim. By the time this one was over, Indiana had outscored Ohio State 38-34 in the paint after the Buckeyes had protected the rim well to start the game.
Thankfully, this one wasn’t won or lost for either team due to fouls. Things opened up the last 7-8 minutes, and it was a joy to watch. Each team trading bucket after bucket, the lead changing and changing, both teams unable to pull away. Neither led by more than three from the 9:06 mark onwards until two seconds to go in the contest, when Christian Watford hit two free throws to put the Hoosiers up four and seal the deal.
So it would come down to late-game execution. And the Hoosiers, as they did against Kentucky, as they weren’t able to do for so long under Tom Crean, were the ones getting it done when it mattered. Down 70-69 with just under 40 seconds to go, Jordan Hulls deflected an Aaron Craft pass to Sam Thompson, which tipped to Verdell Jones. Jones found Victor Oladipo — who played some tremendous defense on Craft in this one and had a strong offensive night with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting — down the court, who scooped under the hoop to avoid Thompson and score. It put the Hoosiers up 71-70. After Ohio State took its final timeout of the game, Derek Elston played strong post defense on Sullinger. So Craft drove to the hoop on Oladipo. Hulls slid over to help, leaving Thompson open near the basket. But the pass hit off his hands and out of bounds.
Hulls was fouled on the next inbounds and hit the front end of a one-and-one. 72-70 Indiana with 13.4 to go. On the ensuing Ohio State position, Buford quickly jacked a highly-contested three, perhaps thinking the Buckeyes were down by that amount. In any case, the board went to Watford, he was fouled and made the aformentioned two free throws.
Game over. The Hoosiers now the winner of contests against both the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the nation inside Assembly Hall this season. Who woulda thunk it?
Rules are here, for those unfamiliar. Christian Watford was the Michigan State Pick to Click.
Pool for Ohio State: All players are eligible to be picked.
Picks are due by 5:45 PM ET on Saturday evening.
A few reminders:
+ State the name of the player (not a nickname) that you’re picking. If you use a nickname for a player, your pick will not be counted. Also, please state who you are picking as the first thing in your comment. We’re tracking hundreds of picks per game. It’s more difficult to keep track of everyone’s pick if it’s not the first thing in your comment.
+ Please make sure you are using a valid e-mail address if you are not registered.
+ Please make sure you are using the same name each time to pick if you are not registered. We are tracking wins by the name you use to submit your pick. If your name changes on a game-to-game basis, credit for your pick will be given to the name used to submit the pick.
A transcript of Matt Roth and Verdell Jones meeting with the media can be accessed here.
Via a tweet from Dustin Dopirak of The Bloomington Herald-Times at today’s media availability, here’s the latest on the status of Indiana sophomore wing Will Sheehey from Tom Crean:
Did ask Crean straight up if he expects Sheehey not to play tomorrow, and he said he’s holding to the day-to-day thing.
— Dustin Dopirak (@DustinDopirak) December 30, 2011
Sheehey has missed the past two games (UMBC and Michigan State) with a left ankle injury after stepping on a ball in practice on Wednesday, Dec. 21. He’s averaging 10.7 points in 20 minutes per game off the bench.
Following a tough loss on Wednesday at Michigan State, Indiana returns to Assembly Hall for a showdown with No. 2 Ohio State.
The game will be shown on ESPN2 (Dave O’Brien and Dan Dakich) and broadcast on the IU radio network (Sirius 128/XM 191):
For the second (and most likely last) time this season, the Hoosiers will take Branch McCracken floor as underdogs on Saturday evening. Ohio State has overtaken Michigan State as the Big Ten’s top program with four regular season titles and three conference tournament titles over the past six seasons. The Buckeyes are once again the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten thanks to Jared Sullinger’s decision to return to Columbus for his sophomore season.
MEET THE BUCKEYES
Ohio State comes to Bloomington sporting a 13-1 mark and their lone blemish came at Kansas on Dec. 10 without Sullinger in the lineup. Sullinger (16.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg), who is now healthy, is once again the centerpiece of Thad Matta’s team and his ability to dominate a game in the paint is unmatched in the conference. He currently ranks as the nation’s top defensive rebounder (34.4 DR%) and sits in the top 60 in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (6.7).
Perhaps equally as dangerous, at least offensively, are senior William Buford (16.6 ppg, 41.4% from 3) and sophomore Deshaun Thomas (15.9 ppg). Buford is coming off his best game of the season — 28 points in a 87-54 win over Northwestern on Wednesday — and is a guy Indiana can’t afford to lose on the perimeter. Even if he’s not hitting from behind the 3-point line, Buford’s midrange game is already NBA-ready.
Thomas’ role has increased significantly as a sophomore and thanks to efficiency from inside the 3-point line (62.5 percent on 2s), he finds himself as one of three Buckeyes scoring over 15 points per game. Given his size and athleticism, Matta would probably like to see more effort on the glass from Thomas. His defensive rebounding percentage (8.7) is mediocre.
2012 Broad Ripple senior and IU signee Ron Patterson scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists on Friday night as the Rockets beat Louisville Central 58-43 in the IPSAC Midwest Challenge at Indianapolis Marshall.
Inside the Hall was in attendance and we’ve compiled over two minutes of video highlights of Broad Ripple’s all-time leading scorer in the embedded media player below: