COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rob Phinisee scored 11 points and Trayce Jackson-Davis had seven points and seven rebounds, but Kaleb Wesson had 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead Ohio State to a much-needed home win, 68-59, at Value City Arena.
The turnovers are back: Indiana seemed to have turned a corner with in the turnover department recently. The Hoosiers gave the ball away only 14 times combined against Michigan State and Maryland, setting season-lows in back-to-back games. Then, against Penn State, Indiana backslid, turning it over 18 times, including 12 in a particularly ugly second half. Those problems carried over to today, when the Hoosiers committed 13 turnovers, leading to 10 points for the Buckeyes. What was particularly frustrating was the way the Hoosiers committed those turnovers: a good majority of them were live-ball giveaways arising from bad passes or poor decisions. Once, Indiana even dribbled out the clock on a 30-second violation seemingly without realizing the time was even winding down. It's those little things that are helping to keep this team falling short of its potential. Meanwhile, Indiana managed just nine assists, two games after a season-high 22 against Maryland.
Jerome Hunter is gaining confidence: It's easy to forget that, before Romeo Langford chose the Hoosiers, Hunter was the jewel of the 2018 IU recruiting class, a four-star recruit who could guard three positions, get to the rim in a variety of ways and spread the floor with his shooting. After missing all of his freshman year with a mysterious (and apparently career-threatening) leg injury, Hunter is still working his way back into form. Recently, however, he seems to have rediscovered the shooting touch that helped him make him such a highly-touted recruit. After shooting less than 20% from beyond the arc earlier in the year, Hunter is 7 for 13 over his last four games, with multiple 3s in a game three times. He went 2 for 4 today and all of attempts came off his hand with confidence. He's got a good-looking shot and if he can help the Hoosiers open the floor from the outside, his minutes will increase significantly. Hunter finished with nine points, helping Indiana stay within striking distance in the second half.
Indiana is right back where it started: When it happened, Indiana's win over Michigan State seemed like a season-turning moment, the game the Hoosiers established themselves as players in the Big Ten race, a team to be reckoned with and a near-lock for the NCAA Tournament. That feeling seemed to hold despite the loss to Maryland, because Indiana played so well offensively and the defeat seemed fluky. After road games this week against Penn State and the Buckeyes, however, this looks more and more like the same Indiana team we've seen so often in the last three years: capable of winning games when it brings its A-game, but unable to do so on any kind of consistent basis, especially away from home. At 15-7 and 5-6 in the Big Ten, a tournament appearance is well short of assured and the Hoosiers are not nearly good enough on either end of the floor to earn a spot right now. Something has to change, quickly, or Indiana could be headed for another long slide to the wrong side of the bubble, similar to the one that ate up the middle of the season last year.
Player of the Game: Kaleb Wesson
Indiana limited Wesson the first time these teams met (though he still had 11 points and 10 rebounds), but today he was a force inside most of the game, finishing with his ninth double-double of the season and going 7 for 12 from the field. He was also a key factor for the Buckeyes on defense, holding the fort down low as the Hoosiers, specifically Brunk and Jackson-Davis tried to muscle their way inside. He affected a wide array of shots around the rim.
Facts and Figures
Indiana is 1-5 in true road games with the loss today. ... The Buckeyes were once ranked No. 2 in the country, but had lost six of their previous eight games entering today's matchup. ... Indiana came in 13th in the country in free throw attempts, averaging 24.2. The Hoosiers had only attempted 10 in each of the last two games, but went 14 of 18 from the line today. After getting out-shot by their opponents at the line in each of those last two games, Indiana held the Buckeyes to only eight foul shots today. ... The Hoosiers came in 11th in the country in average rebounding margin at plus-8.4, but Ohio State won the rebounding battle 31-24. The Buckeyes pulled down 11 offensive boards and had a 8-0 advantage in second-chance points. ... IU was without forward Race Thompson for the third straight game. Thompson is still dealing with the effects of the hard fall he took against Michigan State. ... Ohio State played without freshman guard D.J. Carton, the team's third-leading scorer, who announced Friday he is taking time away from the program to work on his mental health.
The Hoosiers have a week off before returning to action next Saturday at Assembly Hall against rival Purdue (11-10, 4-6 Big Ten). The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN. The Boilermakers have owned the rivalry recently, winning five in a row and eight of the last nine meetings since 2013-14, including a 48-46 victory in Bloomington last season. This year, Purdue is 0-5 on the road in Big Ten play entering Saturday.