The script was the same, and for the second game in a row it was a happy ending for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.
The Buckeyes started slow, trailing 9-2 in the opening minutes, but fought back at home to upset the visiting No. 23 Indiana Hoosiers, 82-70, on Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
Senior guard Shannon Scott said the recent success by opposing teams in the early going against the Buckeyes has been frustrating.
“For some reason everyone starts out hot on us,” Scott said after the game. “I think we did a great job of not getting frustrated about that. I think we did a great job of staying composed and just playing our defense.”
In a familiar act for OSU (16-5, 5-3), freshman guard D’Angelo Russell led the way for the Buckeyes, tallying team highs in points with 22 and assists with 10 while tying for the team high with six rebounds. He finished 9-of-15 shooting from the floor with two makes on seven attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
After burying back-to-back 3-pointers with about nine minutes remaining in the game, Russell left the court holding his right knee. In about a four-minute span, Indiana (15-5, 5-2) could only muster a 7-6 edge on the Buckeyes as Russell checked back in with 5:24 left in the game.
Russell said after the game that he was experiencing cramps in the second half, but that the baskets from long range were a result of being patient.
“I guess they forgot about me,” Russell said of his consecutive 3-pointers. “I was letting the game come to me and I felt cramps coming in and so I was trying to be careful.”
Scott added that, as a senior, he has no issue allowing Russell to take over, especially the way he has been playing.
“The way he controlled the game in the first half was unbelieveable,” Scott said of Russell’s play. “I have no problem going off the ball … he did a great job out there.”
Unlike OSU’s win over Northwestern, it did not need to rely as much on Russell’s scoring as five other Buckeyes scored eight or more points en route to a collective team shooting percentage of 62 percent.
Indiana coach Tom Crean said following the game that the combination of Scott and Russell is ultimately why the Buckeyes ended up on top.
“The bottom line today is D’Angelo Russell and Shannon Scott played the way we couldn’t let them play, and we did,” Crean said. “They never got uncomfortable and therefore everybody on the team was a beneficiary of it.”
The duo of Scott and Russell combined for 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting to go along with 13 assists for the Scarlet and Gray.
For the second straight game, OSU coach Thad Matta elected to start freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate and redshirt-senior forward Anthony Lee over senior center Amir Williams and sophomore forward Marc Loving.
Scott, who scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, said the reason behind the smaller lineup was in large part due to Indiana’s lack of size.
“We have a lot of effective line ups. I think the biggest thing for this game was that they play four guys that can dribble the ball, so we had to match that,” Scott said. “I think our guys did a great job of being tougher this game, and finding a way to have great will and finding a way to get on top.”
The switch seemed to work, especially on the defensive end as the Buckeyes forced 11 Hoosier turnovers at the half and took a 38-32 lead into the locker room.
OSU scored 17 points off of turnovers in the first half.
While Loving was largely effective off the bench, scoring 12 points in the game, Williams did not move from his spot on the sidelines for the duration of the game.
Tate, starting for just the second time in his career, tied Russell with six rebounds and added 20 points, which broke his previous career high of 12.
Tate, who said his primary role is to “bring energy and rebound,” added that his career day would not have been possible without the vision of Scott and Russell.
“With these two guys, I was just finishing the baskets,” Tate, who shot 9-of-10 from the field, said. “They just fed it to me. It was spoon-fed. Without my point guards, that wouldn’t be possible.”
Matta said after the game that what Tate lacks in size as a 6-foot-4-inch forward, he makes up with effort.
“Jae’Sean is going to do whatever he can to help us win,” Matta said of the freshman. “Tonight he took advantage of the switches and got post position and finished down around the basket.”
Leading the way for the Hoosiers was junior guard Yogi Ferrell, who scored a game-high 26 points for Indiana on 9-of-16 shooting.
The win, which put the Buckeyes at fourth in the Big Ten standings is something that Scott said OSU needed.
“We want to be at the top. We know what our ultimate goal is so, we (are) doing whatever we can to get to that No. 1 spot,” Scott said. That takes beating big time teams like this.”
The Buckeyes are set to return to action Thursday against the No. 13 Maryland Terrapins at the Schottenstein Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m.