Indiana arrived in Columbus to face the Buckeyes in a rematch of their earlier battle in Bloomington. Unlike the previous battle, however, the Buckeyes started out hot, and carried a 20 point lead through most of the game to an eventual 80-63 win. The big surprise for the game was the play of Lenzelle Smith Jr., absolutely the player of the game with his 28 points on 10-12 shooting. Jared Sullinger also chimed in with 16 points and 9 rebounds, followed by William Buford’s 12, and DeShaun Thomas’s 11. Indiana was led by Cody Zeller’s 16 points and 6 rebounds.
The game opened up with high energy play from both teams. It was clear that Matta and Crean preached how big this game was all week long and the players were responding in a big way. In the first 4 minutes both Indiana and OSU combined for 21 total points, a surprisingly high score and evidence of the up-tempo pace of the game.
Early on, William Buford and Lenzelle Smith were on the money with their shooting. Both combined for 12 of Ohio State’s first 14 points, with all coming from outside the paint. Better yet Lenzelle Smith was also the game’s leading rebounder to that point as well, as he demonstrated a great ability to attack the glass, particularly on the offensive end.
Evan Ravenel and Sam Thompson made a quick appearance for Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith in the first half. Ravenel quickly made his presence felt on the court as he demonstrated great defensive skill while having to guard shifty Jordan Hulls on the perimeter. Ravenel gave him absolutely no window to drive or shoot, forcing him eventually use a screen to get clear. That screen left Hulls with Aaron Craft, his more natural defender. Ravenel was later forced to play the perimeter again, and did a great job of changing Indiana’s shot, resulting in an airball straight to Sullinger’s waiting arms.
It was clear that the Hoosier’s were struggling with the Buckeyes this time around. Things that worked for Indiana in Bloomington, simply failed against the stiffened OSU defense. It was obvious that the loss to Illinois, plus desire for a little payback against the Hoosiers, was spurring the Bucks to new heights. This was no more true than on the defensive end of the court, where the hoosiers simply could not find easy looks at the basket, and occasionally even allowed the shot clock to expire without taking a shot the focus on the OSU defense was so great.
The only things that managed to slow down the Buckeye’s offense in the first half were themselves. Bad shot selection and sloppy passes allowed Indiana’s defense to build confidence. They were able to start to make plays against Ohio State’s offense, including picking up a nice block from Zeller on Sullinger in the paint.
After 7 straight scoreless possessions, Lenzelle Smith finally dropped in another shot after missing his previous two, allowing him to find his range again and quickly enhance his hot shooting hand for the day. When Smith hit that shot, it seemed to take the lid off the basket, and Aaron Craft was able to put down a pretty floater to build OSU’s lead to 20 in the first half. Lenzelle followed that up with a last second shot in the first half, giving OSU a 21 point lead going into the locker rooms.
Indiana’s 14 points was the fewest scored in the first half this season. Their previous low was 26 against Notre Dame, a game they eventually won. It was also tied for the lowest point total scored by an opposing team in a single half against the Buckeyes. The deficit was a huge hole to dig out of, particularly with Lenzelle Smith playing so well in the first half. Indiana had no answer to that point, and looked like they had no idea how to handle this new facet to Ohio State’s offense.
Things seemed to get more difficult for the Buckeyes in the early minutes of the second half, as Indiana’s Christian Watford started to improve his effort on the offensive end. His shooting, including his 2-4 from three, finally allowed Indiana to keep pace with the Bucks. They were still unable to make much progress in chipping away the lead, however, and time was quickly making it more difficult for them to mount a legitimate comeback.
It was then that the Buckeyes got back to business. A couple of steals, including a great one by Sullinger in the paint, lead to some easy fast break points that quickly put Indiana on their heels again. This time though, Indiana was prepared to stop the run and set up one of their own. Verdell Jones III sank his first three pointer in Big Ten play this year, and only his 8th this season, closely followed by bench player Matt Roth from the left wing. With 9 minutes off the clock, Indiana had only managed to whittle two points off the halftime lead.
Indiana was about to change that, though. Having hit a couple three’s already, the confidence in their offense quickly began to grow. Soon, the lead was down to 16 with only 9 minutes left on the clock – more than enough time to get back into the game. Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft put in the effort after a well timed Matta time-out to increase the gap again and force Indiana into desperation basketball.
With the clock winding down, the Hoosier’s were doing an excellent job putting up good jumpers from beyond the arc. They were clearly working hard to try to open up their shooters for good looks and it was finally starting to net results in Indiana’s three point shooting.
It was too little, too late for the embattled Hoosiers. The Buckeyes had long ago shifted into clock-killing mode, leaving Indiana with insufficient time to make a significant move on the scoreboard. Matta cleared the bench with 1 minute left, bringing Amir Williams, JD Weatherspoon, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, and Jordan Sibert all got their own chance to face the Indiana starters to close out the game.
Lenzelle Smith’s 28 points lead all scorers in the game. He shot an incredible 10-12 from the floor and 4-5 from three point range, helping the Buckeyes shoot 31-57 (54.4%) from the floor, and 6-15 (40%) from three. Indiana responded with 24-55 (43.6%) and 7-21 (33.3%) respectively, much improved over their first half numbers. The OSU effort was one of the more complete games we’ve yet see them play and it showed. Hopefully, the Buckeyes will be able to carry this effort to the future games.
The Buckeyes will next play the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln on Saturday, January 21st at 8:00 PM EST. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network.