FORT WAYNE – Indiana hasn’t quite figured out how to build on success from one game to the next.
Wins over then-No. 3 Wisconsin (75-72 Jan. 14) and then-No. 10 Michigan (63-52 Feb. 2) were each supposed to send them on a hot streak but did not. The Hoosiers think their latest top-25 victory over No. 20 Iowa (93-86 Thursday) might finally have that effect.
It gives us confidence, reserve guard Evan Gordon said. They’re one of the best teams in the country. For us to get that win under our belt, that’s a big building block that we can move forward on.
Indiana (16-12, 6-9 Big Ten) will attempt to improve to 4-1 at Assembly Hall against ranked opponents with a visit today from No. 22 Ohio State (22-7, 9-7) and its vaunted defense.
That defense is awesome by almost any measure.
Of Ohio State’s last 23 conference opponents, only eight have surpassed 60 points. Teams this season average 58.4 points on 40 percent shooting against the Buckeyes, who have the best 3-point defense in America, holding opponents to 27.3 percent shooting from distance.
Ohio State defenders rarely foul and force a lot of turnovers. The one area in which they lack skill: shot-blocking. Otherwise, the Buckeyes operate as a cohesive unit that is long, mobile, recovers to shooters and plays hard.
Point guard Aaron Craft is the Big Ten’s all-time leader in steals, a statistic the NCAA began keeping in 1985.
Craft’s disruptiveness will pose the greatest test yet for Hoosiers star point guard Yogi Ferrell, who has turned the ball over 72 times.
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, whose team beat the Buckeyes 65-63 Thursday, said Craft changes the game with his defense at the point of attack.
Chambers has a point guard in Tim Frazier who, like Ferrell, creates a lot of the offense. Penn State moved Frazier to shooting guard to get him away from Craft.
He’s one of the best defenders in the country, Chambers said. He plays so hard. He’s always in the right places. Ohio State’s defense starts with Aaron. We had to figure out a way to counter what they do.
The Hoosiers do not have another true point guard, so toying with Ferrell’s role may not be feasible. But coach Tom Crean could use two guards alongside Ferrell, something Indiana did in the 93-86 upset of the Hawkeyes three days ago.
We used to do that in the past couple years, Crean said of the three-guard lineup. That was not anything we’ve really tried to spend a lot of time on this year.
While the Hoosiers desperately want to follow up one big win with another, perhaps the Buckeyes aren’t quite the right opponent to do it against. Indiana has fared poorly in this series in recent years with Ohio State winning eight of the past 10 meetings.
Still, the Hoosiers lead the series 101-76, including a 61-24 home record against the Buckeyes.