The No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers pulled out to an early lead and never took their foot off the gas in an 81-68 win over the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus on Sunday.
The Buckeyes entered the game as the No. 1 defensive team in the Big Ten. Stopping the No. 2 offense in the country didn’t shape up to be an easy task, though, especially with the Buckeyes’ foul troubles in the second half of the game.
Both center Amir Williams and guard Aaron Craft found themselves with three fouls apiece with more than 12 minutes left in the contest. That was when the Hoosiers began to pull away.
Ari Wasserman of the Buckeyes Sports Bulletin foreshadowed what would happen to Ohio State midway through the second half:
With foul trouble mounting, it was difficult for the Buckeyes to play aggressively on the defensive end. Cody Zeller was able to dominate in the paint with very little resistance, as pointed out by Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Indiana held a 13-point lead with 10:33 left in the game—the largest deficit for OSU at home all season. The lack of a true perimeter shooter made chipping into the lead difficult, as the Hoosiers were able to match point for point.
Forward Christian Watford finished the game for Indiana with 20 points on 4-of-5 shooting from behind the arc. His biggest deep ball may have been the one he hit with just under 10 minutes left in the game to give the Hoosiers what would prove to be an insurmountable lead, as pointed out by Wasserman:
While Watford had a nice performance, the combination of Zeller and guard Victor Oladipo did the most damage in the Indiana win. Oladipo’s 26-point effort was impressive, but he did damage at both ends of the floor, as ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit detailed with this tweet:
As has been the case for the Buckeyes too many times this season, only Deshaun Thomas contributed heavily on the offensive end of the court. He did his best to put the Buckeyes’ hopes of winning on his shoulders. With the game slipping away, Thomas went on a scoring run to match Oladipo’s.
While Thomas carried the offense, ESPN’s Kenny Roda spelled out OSU’s offensive problems in the game with this tweet:
Indiana’s defense deserves credit for how poorly Ohio State’s offense played at times. The Hoosiers slowed the pace of the game by playing quality half-court offense and limiting the Buckeyes’ opportunities to run the floor in transition. Most of the Buckeyes’ transition offense came late in the game when it was already out of reach.
As well as Ohio State typically plays on defense, Indiana was the more aggressive team on the offensive end of the floor. Zeller and Oladipo did persistent work around the rim, each making several trips to the free-throw line in the contest. As Phil Harrison of CollegeFootballNews.com pointed out, Indiana’s free-throw shooting was the difference in the game:
With the win on Sunday, Indiana cemented its place as the nation’s No. 1 team. Top-ranked teams have not fared well this season, but the Hoosiers proved they can play like the best team in the country, even on the road against a quality opponent.
Oladipo (26 points), Zeller (24 points) and Watford (20 points) showcased how dangerous the Hoosiers offense can be. Indiana shot 53.1 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from behind the arc. Most of Zeller's damage (8-of-11 from the field) was done in the paint and the Buckeyes had no answer for defending him throughout the contest.
Thomas did most of Ohio State's scoring, but Craft came on strong toward the end of the game. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting before fouling out with 41 seconds left in the game.
The Big Ten continues to beat up on itself this season. Indiana moves to 21-3 (9-2 Big Ten) with the win, while Ohio State drops to 17-6 (7-4 Big Ten) with the loss.