Ohio State-Indiana: Buckeye Chemistry in Question Heading into Bloomington

Rob WunschCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2008

Ohio State (17-10, 8-6) plays Indiana (23-4, 12-2) at 7:00 PM ET on Tuesday night.  The Buckeyes are coming off another tough loss at home, 58-53 to Wisconsin, while Indiana is returning from an exciting 85-82 win at Northwestern.

The two teams seem to be heading in opposite directions.  Ohio State needs a signature win just to be considered for the NCAA tournament.  Indiana is currently a half-game out of 1st place in the Big Ten and needs a win to keep pace with Wisconsin.

Ohio State’s team chemistry is in question.  Jamar Butler, who started 95 consecutive games for the Buckeyes, was on the bench at the start Sunday’s game.  

Coach Matta did not disclose the reason.  However, there have been rumors that Butler argued with a coach and was sent home from a practice.

Butler was critical of the entire team in a well-documented rant after a loss at Iowa on February 2nd.  His post-game comments seem to have turned things in the wrong direction for the Buckeyes.  

Butler is shooting 26 percent from three-point range and has had 18 turnovers in the last five games.  The team is not doing much better, losing three of their last five.   

Another interesting development on Sunday was the playing time of senior forward Othello Hunter.  Hunter had nine points and six boards in only 20 minutes of play.  At the 12:01 mark of the 2nd half Hunter went to the bench and never came back into the game.  He was not in foul trouble and played well in the 1st half.

Hunter has been inconsistent the entire year, and his absence during the most critical stretch of the Buckeyes’ season on Sunday was not a good sign.  

Tonight he will be matched up with D.J. White in Bloomington.  If Hunter doesn’t perform against D.J. in the 1st half, it will be easy for the coaches to give his minutes to Freshman Dallas Lauderdale.

It seems like the Buckeyes have been on this “must win” merry-go-round for two weeks now.  The team is playing tight and, quite frankly, looks stressed out.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a player actually smile on the court.

It is time for the coaches and players to take a deep breath and enjoy the game of basketball.  More importantly, they need to come together as a group and support each other.