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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 6:10 pm

Bates-Diop a great test for Indiana defense

Dylan Sinn | The Journal Gazette

Ohio State is a talented team that plays well together and has shown it can win in different ways. That said, the key to beating the Buckeyes is shutting down Keita Bates-Diop.

As I touched on in my preview video for this game, the junior forward is one of the most talented scorers in the country. His full arsenal was on display against Penn State, as he made four triples (including three in the final minutes), repeatedly beat his defender off the dribble for layups, and even scored a couple of times from the post.

Juwan Morgan will likely be asked to guard 6-foot-9 freshman Buckeye center Kaleb Wesson. That will leave the task of containing Bates-Diop often to freshman Justin Smith. Smith has shown flashes of being a capable defender this year, but he struggled against Michigan State's Nick Ward (albeit a different type of player than Bates-Diop).

To give Smith a respite from guarding the Big Ten's leading scorer all night, Collin Hartman might usually be asked to check Bates-Diop, as well. However, Hartman won't play tonight after his lower-leg injury in practice Saturday. Instead, the Hoosiers could turn to Freddie McSwain to try to stop the conference's top scorer.

McSwain played one of his better games of the season against Purdue, going 3-for-3 from the field and finishing with eight points. It's unclear how he would fare in a matchup with the ultra-skilled Bates-Diop, but he certainly has the athleticism and length to frustrate the OSU junior. 

For both Smith and McSwain, the key will be keeping Bates-Diop out of the lane, where he is very good at drawing the defense to him and making smart passes for easy baskets. If the Hoosiers can turn him into a jump shooter, they'll have a chance to win. Of course, if he's hitting his 3s as he did against Penn State, he'll be impossible to stop regardless of which Indiana player has the misfortune of guarding him.