Ohio State vs. Indiana: Have Buckeyes Finally Found Themselves?
Ohio State would like to be reintroduced to the country this month.
Thad Matta's group went into Bloomington on Tuesday night and beat up on the No. 2 team in the country, 67-58, spoiling Indiana's Senior Night.
It was the type of statement win that suggests expectations be reevaluated. Assumptions thrown out the window. Narratives buried.
The story all season with the No. 14 Buckeyes has been that they need a second scorer to go anywhere. Deshaun Thomas needed help.
Aaron Craft, when it matters, should take care of that. In the last two games on a big stage, against Michigan State and Indiana, Craft has scored 21 points and 15 points, respectively. He did most of his damage down the stretch at IU, burying a trio of pull-up jumpers late in the shot clock.
But Craft's crunch-time scoring is only part of the new book on the Buckeyes, who have now won four straight after losing three of four.
These Buckeyes are about having more speed and toughness than the rest.
November, December, January and February were for the boys; March is for the men.
Men grab nine offensive rebounds and turn those nine boards into 10 second-chance points. Men turn the ball over only seven times, the second-lowest total against Indiana to date. Men get buckets and stops late—Ohio State outscored the Hoosiers 15-8 in the final six minutes.
Matta's squad made all the toughness plays. Indiana didn't play poorly; Ohio State just played harder.
No one should count the Hoosiers out as national title contenders. In flashes, they showed why they are still a dangerous team with five players on the court who can score, led by the great duo of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo.
Zeller scored 17 points, and Oladipo gave us two highlight-reel blocks. Of course, those blocks didn't faze the Buckeyes, who retained possession on both and came away with two baskets.
Rugged beat pretty.
Ohio State was just too quick to every loose ball, and speed and quickness is what Matta's team has more than possibly any other team in the country.
Craft's quick feet and hands will steal the rock before you know what happened, and he had four thefts against IU. Shannon Scott is just as quick and sneaky, and he had four steals for the second straight game off the bench.
Once the Buckeyes took the ball from the Hoosiers, they were just as quick to get to the other end, finishing with 14 points off 12 turnovers.
Thomas, per usual, did his part by scoring 18 points. He is as good at getting buckets as anyone in the country.
Is Ohio State good enough to get back to the Final Four?
And that was the book on Ohio State—Thomas is a great scorer, but that's not enough.
Last year, Thomas had a lot of help with Jared Sullinger inside and William Buford on the perimeter. OSU made it to the Final Four with great offense, averaging 74.7 points per game on the way to New Orleans.
This team doesn't have that kind of firepower. Indiana does, but it hardly mattered Tuesday night.
So now we must reevaluate. Ohio State has earned that privilege as the tourney nears.
If the Buckeyes defend, rebound and hustle like they did against the Hoosiers, they could go just as far as last year's team. For the second straight season, the final chapter might stretch all the way into April.
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