Indiana welcomed the Buckeyes into Assembly Hall in Bloomington today only to have the Buckeyes hang a 85-67 final on them. The game wasn’t nearly as one-sided as the score indicated, as Indiana fought hard the whole game through. William Buford led all scorers with a season high 24 points on 8-15 shooting, including 5-7 from beyond the arc. Sullinger also added a double double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The game started out fast paced with Indiana trying to push the ball as much as possible. The strategy worked at first as the Hoosiers put a couple quick baskets on the board. What the Hoosier’s didn’t account for, however, was that Buford was going to start the game smoking hot – hitting his first three baskets including a pair of three pointers. Hoosier’s had come out in a 3-2 zone defense that gave the Buckeyes the opportunity to murder Indiana from long range.
Indiana quickly switched into a man-to-man defense with their 3-2 failing miserably early. The Buckeyes seemed to have problems initially with the new defensive look, committing several poor turnovers. The most egregious was a poor pass from William Buford that put Sullinger into a particularly bad position, forcing him into a charge as he couldn’t slow down before running over a defender.
The defensive adjustment completely changed the complexion of the game. After the Buckeyes had scored 20 points in 6 minutes of play, both teams found themselves unable to score for several minutes. The deadlocked 10 point spread finally broke when Indiana drained a three pointer to get the crowd going. The Buckeyes responded quickly as Diebler dropped one of his own from long range to quickly shut the crowd down again.
The Indiana three pointer seemed to wake everyone up from a long nap. After nearly 6 minutes of no scoring at all, both teams began to find some openings in the opponent’s defenses. The openings didn’t lead to too many baskets, however, as the officiating crew began to call the game particularly tightly. The slightest contact drew a whistle – surprising for Big Ten basketball. The officiating resulted in two Indiana players picking up 3 fouls in the first half, and both teams ending up in the double bonus before halftime.
With the foul situation getting out of control – specifically Buford, Lighty and Craft having committed 2 fouls – Jordan Sibert got into the game during some key minutes late in the first half. While he committed a terrible foul, hitting a three point shooter after the ball was released, he made up for it later by sinking a three of his own. The time Sibert saw will be extremely valuable down the road in later Big Ten games. We’re going to need him down the road in a big way.
The Buckeyes started to make some adjustments against the Indiana man defense which allowed them to open up the lead a little bit leading into the half. A fantastic play by Indiana to use up the last 6 seconds of the half allowed them to close it to a 13 point lead for the Buckeyes. The Hoosier’s found a lane down the baseline for a layup that found the bottom of the net when the clock ran out. Two Buckeyes were in position to defend the play, but couldn’t step in front without possibly drawing a blocking foul.
For the half both teams shot lights out. The Bucks hit 15-21 (71.4%) from the field and 7-11 (63.6%) from three, an amazingly torrid shooting percentage. Indiana was only slightly behind with a “very good” percentage – 54.5% (12-22) from the floor and 55.6% (5-9) from three. Both teams were the absolute model of efficiency, being forced to hit what little they could find against the tough defensive sets. The man of the half for the Buckeyes was William Buford’s 5-6 shooting including 3-4 from three for 14 points.
The second half began entirely in Indiana’s favor. The Indiana defense continued to give the Buckeyes fits on offense. On the other end, the Hoosier’s began to play very aggressively, forcing the Buckeyes back on their heels and into bad mistakes that opened things up in the mid-range game.
The Buckeyes adjusted on offense. The Bucks began to get the ball down low and forcing Indiana to defend tough at the rim. The strategy quickly netted five fouls for Indiana’s Derek Elston, sitting him with 17 minutes left in the game. Sullinger continued to dominate inside the paint and force players into bad situations as he has all season long.
Indiana refused to go away easily. The Hoosier’s rained in two quick three pointers, framing a Buckeye three, to try to keep the game as close as possible. Unfortunately for the Hoosier’s, there was simply no stopping Sullinger down low. A ludicrous pass into the paint with a Hoosier in perfect defensive position resulted in a great play by Sullinger to secure the pass and get the easy layup.
For reasons unclear to me, Indiana decided to switch back to a zone defense. Ohio State immediately responded with a Jon Diebler three pointer in the corner to make them pay for the change. Surprisingly, the Buckeyes weren’t able to take advantage of the 2-3 zone like they were against the 3-2 zone earlier in the game. The spread continued to hold around 15 points through a good chunk of the 2nd half – especially when both teams were trading three pointers like they were going out of style. Combined, the two teams were shooting 70.4% from beyond the arc for the game.
Ohio State began to slowly take control of the game. Indiana simply could not keep up with OSU’s lethal shooting on the night. The Hoosiers also found themselves committing a few more fouls than the Bucks, putting Ohio State on the line much more frequently. It allowed the Bucks to occasionally pick up a point on the lead.
One important thing about this Buckeye’s team is the consistency we see game in and game out. While we don’t see consistency in terms of the same players scoring the same number of points every night, the team as a whole consistently does a great job of getting what it needs each game. Moving forward, I would love to see the Defense become equally consistent with the offense.
Late in the game, the Buckeyes began to let Indiana creep back into the game. After building a 20 point lead, Ohio State players started to relax – especially on defense. It allowed Indiana to go on a 7-0 run and significantly close the gap with 5 minutes remaining. The change very well may have come when Jared Sullinger picked up his 4th foul and was forced to sit. Matta quickly called a timeout after a travelling call on offense and put Sullinger back in the game.
Putting Sullinger back into the game for a short time, along with chewing out the players, managed to refocus the Buckeyes on the game. The Bucks rebuilt their lead in the closing minutes of the game to secure the win. For the game, the Bucks shot a torrid 68.4% (13-19) from beyond the arc, and 60.5% (23-38) from the field. Indiana responded with a much more pedestrian 48.1% (25-52) from the field and 39.1% (9-23) from three.
Four players broke double digits in scoring for the Buckeyes: William Buford (24), Jared Sullinger (19), Jon Diebler (15), and David Lighty (11). Indiana’s Watford (17) was joined by Oladipo (14) and Hulls (12) in that club.
Ohio State next faces Iowa in Iowa City on Tuesday, January 4th at 9:00 pm Eastern Time. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network, assuming you’re not already watching the Sugar Bowl.