Thoughts on a 67-58 loss to the Buckeyes:
There would be no outright Big Ten title awarded on Senior Night, no fitting ending to the group that brought Indiana back to its rightful place on top of the college basketball mountain. No, the Buckeyes would come into this game like the Badgers did all those weeks ago, with confidence, no fear and the belief that they could rip the hearts outs of the Assembly Hall faithful, and that they did.
The second half was an absolute defensive clinic against the most efficient offense in the nation, a performance reminiscent of Ohio State’s comeback run against the Spartans at home a few weekends back — strips and steals and blocks on the defensive end leading to buckets, many of them coming from Aaron Craft. Craft is pest, a nuisance, a gnat on defense. But when he also has it going on the other end of the court, when he’s getting to the rim and hitting his jumper, he’s that much more integral to the Buckeyes. And he was doing that tonight. His line: 15 points (7-of-10), four steals, four assists. Dan Dakich called him the most important player on the floor on a few occasions on the call, and well: He was probably right.
By the final buzzer and Tom Crean’s speedy handshake to Thad Matta, the Buckeyes had racked up eight steals, seven blocks and scored 17 of their points off of Indiana’s turnovers. (Indiana would score nine in this department.) They’d hold the Hoosiers to just 39.6 percent shooting from the field and .96 points per possession. Cody Zeller (17 points) and Christian Watford (12 points) would be the only Hoosiers in double-digits on the evening. Saddled with foul trouble in the first half, Victor Oladipo wouldn’t even attempt a shot. He made up for lost time to start the second half, scoring five points in an out-the-gate run that saw IU score on seven of its first eight possessions. But the aforementioned OSU defense turned up the heat and Oladipo would finish with seven points (3-of-6) and an uncharacteristic four turnovers. Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell would end the night a combined 4-of-16.
Ohio State’s second-best defense in the conference on a per-possession basis did it’s thing tonight, and the Hoosiers had just too large a deficit (11 points, a season-high) with too little time left to make a run at a come-from-behind victory. The Buckeyes also did a better job of cleaning up their misses (an offensive rebounding percent of 35.3 compared to Indiana’s 28.6) and recorded 10 second-chance points to IU’s seven.
This is one huge, bitter pill to swallow. Indiana missed out on a great opportunity to seize the outright Big Ten title at home on Senior Night. And as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi tweeted after this one, Indiana has now lost its grasp on the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament and a spot in the Midwest Regional. He now has them out East as the No. 1.
But it is what it is and the sun will rise tomorrow and these Hoosiers will have to regroup. A game against the Wolverines awaits on Sunday up in Ann Arbor and a win there erases this one and still gives Indiana an outright Big Ten title. If not, the Hoosiers still get to call themselves Big Ten champs with tournament time looming.
As these seniors well know, not everything goes according to plan and not everything is easy. It doesn’t always start or end how we dream, but life, and this season, moves on.
Filed to: Ohio State Buckeyes