The Minute After: Ohio State

  • 01/06/2024 11:30 pm in

Thoughts on a 71-65 win against the Buckeyes:

Indiana’s one-point deficit at half quickly turned into nine, as Ohio State started the second half on an 8-0 run.

Timeout Mike Woodson.

From there, the Hoosiers recovered. They got back in the game. They dug deep. Eventually, that nine-point deficient became a 10-point lead at 66-56 with 3:34 to go. Indiana hung on the rest of the way and closed this one out, snagging a much-needed conference victory.

Ohio State came into this game as a strong offensive-rebounding team, ranking 32nd in the country. But the Buckeyes dominated the glass tonight. Indiana allowed Ohio State to rebound a staggering 52 percent of their misses, which led to 24 second-chance points. Those 24 points accounted for 37 percent of Ohio State’s total points this evening. At times, Felix Okpara was a one-man wrecking crew, as he had five offensive rebounds and 15 total. Zed Key grabbed four offensive rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.

But Indiana was able to counter the gaudy offensive rebounding with an extreme of its own. The Hoosiers turned the ball on just six percent of their possessions (four total). And they were able to turn Ohio State over on 22 percent of its possessions, leading to 22 points of their own. Thirteen of those 22 came in the first half, which helped Indiana keep pace with Ohio State via easy runout buckets as its half-court offense struggled.

“It brings a smile to my face, that’s all I can tell you,” Mike Woodson said after the game about the turnovers turnabout after a sloppy night in Lincoln earlier this week.

Xavier Johnson had four turnovers in just 15 minutes against Nebraska. But tonight, in 34 minutes of action, Johnson had zero turnovers. Zero. And his 18 points — including a 2-of-2 mark from distance and 8-of-11 from the line — were a big key to this victory as well.

“I grew up tonight, and I’ve got to keep growing up,” Johnson said.

The other offensive heroes tonight for Indiana? Malik Reneau and CJ Gunn. Reneau scored 19 of his team-high 23 points in the second half. While he did his typical work — often scoring when it seemed like he had no room to do so — off the right block, Indiana also got him looks and scores via the left block and even in a ball-screen situation. No bigger shot from Reneau came than the one he hit with 1:15 to go. After Roddy Gayle Jr. cut Indiana’s lead to just two with a layup at the 1:44 mark, Indiana took its time on its next possession. Reneau got the ball in the right corner. But he backed his way down to the paint, cut across it and scored with his left hand on the other side of the basket with just about a second left on the shot clock to put Indiana back up four points. Two more free throws from Johnson after that helped seal the victory.

After Anthony Leal got some of Gunn’s minutes at Nebraska, Woodson went with Gunn tonight for longer and was rewarded.

“He had two good days, man, he deserved to play,” Woodson said of Gunn’s last few days of practice.

Gunn got things going for himself with a breakaway dunk in the first half where he was fouled and hit the and-1 free throw. Later in the first half, he connected on a jumper from the left corner on a baseline out-of-bounds play. Gunn then hit a jumper in the second half and rounded out his scoring with a big 3-pointer to give the Hoosiers a six-point cushion with 6:11 to go during the run that punched their lead out to 10.

Only Reneau, Johnson and Gunn scored for the Hoosiers in the second half.

Indiana also won this one thanks to one of its better defensive performances of the season in the second half. There was less confusion and more cohesion. Indiana was connected and in the right spots. Sure, Ohio State missed some open 3-pointers and went cold a bit, too. But Indiana had plenty to do with the Buckeyes only scoring 27 points after the break.

The Hoosiers still have plenty of work to do to get into the NCAA tournament discussion, but this win is their first over a team that profiled better than them. It’s a start.

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