A tough week ended somber for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.
A sold-out crowd, some of which had been camping out since Wednesday, witnessed the No. 10 Buckeyes fall to the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers Sunday, 81-68.
Deshaun Thomas’ 26 points weren’t enough to equal a trio of Indiana offensive weapons who combined for 70 points and stifled every run OSU threw at them.
Junior guard Victor Oladipo matched Thomas’ effort with 26 points of his own, sophomore center Cody Zeller scored 24 and senior forward Christian Watford added 20.
“We couldn’t gain that momentum,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “Unfortunately we didn’t guard them at the level we needed to guard them.”
Both teams came into the game trying to avoid back-to back conference losses that could all but bury a team in the ultra-competitive Big Ten title race this season. OSU was coming off an overtime loss to Michigan Tuesday and Indiana lost at the buzzer against Illinois Thursday.
Indiana made it clear early they wanted their preseason all-American, Zeller, to get his touches. The 7-foot sophomore shot just six times in Indiana’s road loss to Illinois Thursday, but the Hoosiers fed the ball into the post early and often. Zeller scored the game’s first bucket and had 12 points on eight shots in the first half. OSU coach Thad Matta rotated his three big men on Zeller, bumping and bruising Indiana’s star, but the three Buckeyes combined for five fouls in the first half and 10 for the game.
“We really needed to get the ball in the paint,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “It was very important that the ball hit the paint because our statistics are very high percentage wise.”
But Indiana’s best early option was Oladipo, who scored 14 first half points. In the first half’s waning minutes, the junior guard converted back-to-back acrobatic buckets, the last of which was a high flying two-handed slam to give Indiana an eight-point advantage.
The Buckeyes took their first lead, 13-11, when Thomas connected on a 3-pointer from the wing eliciting a roar from the sold-out crowd at the Schottenstein Center. Thomas scored 13 points in the opening period, but the Hoosiers dominated the half’s last five minutes to take a 41-33 lead into the locker room.
Thomas drew OSU within four early in the second half after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt and making all three free throws, but Oladipo quieted what was a surging crowd with a jumper from the elbow and a 3-pointer on the next possession to extend the lead to nine.
That was the theme of the second half. Whenever OSU had a run, the Hoosiers had an answer, silencing the crowd with their depth. Indiana shot 59 percent in the second half and 53 percent from the game.
“We’d make a run and they’d make a 5-0 back at us and kept their composure,” junior guard Aaron Craft said.
Watford took his turns as well, hitting four 3-pointers in the game including two in the second half that gave his team a five-possession lead.
Thomas exploited Indiana’s defense all day, but OSU’s lack of other scorers doomed any chance of a comeback.
With the game about out of reach, Craft scored seven straight points late in the game on his way to 16 for the game. Craft later joined senior forward Evan Ravenel in fouling out of the contest.
The loss drops OSU to 17-6 and 7-4 in the Big Ten, two games behind the conference leading Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2).
The Buckeyes next take on Northwestern at home Thursday. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.