Hoosiers prepare for nation’s No. 2 defense in battle with Buckeyes

  • 03/02/2014 9:41 am in

Just three days ago, Indiana got to play the game it wanted — a high-paced, high-scoring affair with a willing opponent. On Thursday night, the Hoosiers ran through No. 20 Iowa in the fastest-paced game of the Big Ten season (83 possessions per team) in a 93-86 win.

This afternoon in Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers won’t get that luxury again.

This time, they are slated to play No. 22 Ohio State (22-7, 9-7), a team that boasts the No. 2 defense in the country and hopes to pressure the Hoosiers (16-12, 6-9) into their 13th loss of the season.

“They are tremendous, defensively,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “They attack the dribble, they do a great job of getting into the elbows and they’ll come off their man and they can cover a lot of ground. They’re very, very experienced and they use that experience to create havoc.”

Perhaps no single player represents the challenge facing the Hoosiers than Buckeyes senior point guard Aaron Craft, who comes into today’s game with a 4.6 steal percentage — the 14th best individual rank in the country. Craft, who has forced 17 turnovers in six career games against the Hoosiers, has long been regarded as one of the nation’s top defenders. Crean has long called him one of the NCAA’s best players, too.

But Craft isn’t alone in the Buckeyes’ aggressive and experienced defense that ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten in efficiency (0.96 points per possession allowed) and opponents’ turnover percentage (20.8). In fact, junior guard Shannon Scott steals the ball at a higher rate than Craft at 4.7 percent — good for ninth-best in the nation.

And though no other player on the Buckeyes has a steal percentage higher than 1.5 percent, the Hoosiers — who are the worst in the Big Ten at turning the ball over (22.0 percent) — believe the challenge extends far beyond just Scott and Craft.

“We know that they’re a very aggressive team, defensively, and that’s one thing we have planned for,” sophomore Austin Etherington said. “We saw the way they’ve played other teams, we’ve watched film from last year to see how aggressive they are. And that’s the one thing that we know what to expect coming into the game.”

So, the Hoosiers know what might be coming. But handling it is another story.

Indiana has struggled with turnovers all season — from questionable passing decisions to rushed offensive plays, it has posted only three performances this Big Ten season with turnover percentages below 15.0 (twice against Northwestern). And against an Ohio State squad that thrives on exactly what the Hoosiers struggle in, taking care of the ball becomes that much more critical on Sunday, Crean said.

Though he has said it plenty of times before this season, Crean said the Hoosiers will simply just have to be “very smart and very strong with the ball.” And as has been proven time and time again for the 2013-2014 Indiana squad, that isn’t necessarily a given.

“The big thing is to keep the ball moving, keep the bodies moving and use the entire court,” Crean said. “We can’t stress it enough that we have to be strong with the ball and don’t drive the ball in a crowd and allow them to be at their best.

“You have to make quick passes, early passes and keep your head up.”

Weather, most likely, not an issue

Regardless of the weather, today’s game between Indiana and Ohio State is likely to be played. As long as players, officials and proper operations staff can safely make it to the arena, Big Ten precedent is that the game will be played, according to an IU spokesman.

The Buckeyes arrived in Bloomington Saturday afternoon and referees traveled to Bloomington late Saturday night, where the scheduled forecast has IU receiving four to seven inches of snow, in addition to prior ice and sleet accumulation, today through Monday morning.

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  • SCHoosier

    Can’t afford to give OSU extra possessions with a lot of TO’s given the pace of the game would make it tough to come back against a big Bucks lead. They have been shaky at times when really hit by in your face defense from their opponents.
    Control TO’s..make’em squeak when IU is on defense..sounds like a plan to me!

  • And_One

    OSU is also struggling with a kind of Jeckyll/Hyde syndrome. If the team that lost to PSU last week happens to play the team that just beat Iowa, we can be pretty sure who’ll win. Here’s hoping the Dr. Jeckyll Hoosiers are on the floor today.

  • HoosierHysteria5

    I’m concerned about our inbounding. OSU is one of the best teams at full court press, and IU is simply below par when it comes to staying above the water down the stretch. Hopefully, we’ll put this game away early…well, a fan can wish.

  • ForeverIU

    We need to get their defense in foul trouble (seems like they’re foul prone) and shoot well at the line. Let’s see how the foul calls and officiating go. They will get their twenty-some defensive rebounds. We need to deny them the offensive rebounds.

  • HoosierFanaticFromUSI

    Etherington, Gordon, and Davis look like they were smoking the good stuff in the picture attached to this article.

  • HoosierFanaticFromUSI

    I haven’t been able to watch a full game since the Penn State game so I’m pretty excited. Hopefully the Hoosiers can show up for a second game in a row. I hope the Hall is still packed despite the weather. I know that even if it’s half-full the ones who are there will be rowdy as all get out!

    Go Hoosiers!!!

  • HoosierFanaticFromUSI

    Hopefully the refs actually call the “touch fouls” on Craft in this game. I wouldn’t bet money on it though.

    I agree though. They need to get Vonleh going early because I don’t think Williams can handle him consistently.

  • HannerTime Hoosier

    Mo Creek looking solid against G Mason, WOW!

  • MillaRed

    Farewell Aarorn Craft. You will not be missed. Enjoy your career in Europe.

  • ILive4IUBball

    I go to USI as well. Whoop whoop

  • David Macer

    Just read that Dustin just posted on another blog that Vonleh is out for the game with a foot inflammation. Alex can you confirm this ??

  • ForeverIU

    No Vonleh, no problem! Woo hoo, we won it.