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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Robert Johnson is one of five Indiana seniors who will play their final game at Assembly Hall tonight when the Hoosiers plays Ohio State.

Friday, February 23, 2018 1:00 am

IU seniors looking for final home win

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana

vs. Ohio State

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington

Records: Indiana (16-13, 9-8 Big Ten), Ohio State (23-7, 14-3)

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 1250 AM

Indiana has already played Ohio State once this season. It did not go well for the Hoosiers. They fell behind 27-10 barely 11 minutes into the game and never recovered, eventually falling 71-56 against the then-No. 17 Buckeyes.

“We were physically dominated in the game,” coach Archie Miller said Thursday of the first matchup with Ohio State. “We were a step slow to every loose ball. (There was a) lack of physicality on our offensive side of the ball in terms of the way we screened, the way we cut. (The Buckeyes) were the more forceful team in that game.”

The Hoosiers (16-13, 9-8 Big Ten) have an opportunity to end the regular season with a bounce-back win over the Buckeyes today at Assembly Hall. A win would give the Hoosiers their first win over one of the top teams in the Big Ten and also send off the team's five seniors in style in their final game in Assembly Hall.

The quintet of seniors, including 1,000-point scorer Robert Johnson and fifth-year senior Collin Hartman reflected on their time as Hoosiers.

“Something for me that I'll cherish is the impact that we've had on other people's lives,” said Johnson, who needs just 43 points to crack the top 20 on the all-time IU scoring list. “I think being here is a special place. You get to inspire a lot of people that you don't come across every day, and for me, that's been really special.”

Hartman's final season has not gone the way he envisioned when he decided to return for another campaign after a knee injury prematurely ended his 2016-17 season. Hartman has shot a career-low 38.2 percent from the field and played just 16 minutes per game, his lowest total since his freshman season. Still, he has found ways to help his team late in the year.

“The season is winding down, your body is tired,” Hartman said. “You just want to contribute in some type of way, so you give everything that you've got. I think that's the thing I'll take from (this season) is just, there's always some way you can contribute. You've just got to find that way.”

If the Hoosiers want to send off their upperclassmen with a victory, they'll need to be much more physical than they were the first time against the Buckeyes (23-7, 14-3).

Toughness is a staple for Ohio State and it outrebounded the Hoosiers 39-26 when the teams first met Jan. 30. Forward Keita Bates-Diop blocked four Indiana shots, and freshman big man Kaleb Wesson went 7 for 7 from the field, with all seven baskets coming in the paint.

“In our first game, our lack of physical toughness, lack of energy, there was a lot things we didn't have in place that night to be able to give them a better game,” Miller said. “Hopefully in our building, we have a little more pep in our step.”

In addition to being senior night at Assembly Hall, the game is important for both teams in a more immediate sense. The Hoosiers can spoil the Buckeyes' chances of a Big Ten title, as a loss today knocks Ohio State out of contention. Indiana, meanwhile, can earn the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with a win. A loss would drop the Hoosiers to No. 7, unless Penn State loses to Nebraska.

Either way, the Hoosiers will play their first game of the tournament Thursday night.

“We're going to take the highest possible seed they'll name us,” Miller said. “Sixth is definitely better than seventh. In terms of who you play, I think sixth is a little more unique because you wait and see.”

The No. 6 seed plays the winner of Wednesday's No. 11 vs. No. 14 matchup, while the No. 7 is locked into playing the No. 10 seed. 

dsinn@jg.net