COLUMBUS, Ohio – On Friday, coach Archie Miller called Indiana's interior defense "non-existent" recently. Today, the Hoosiers went out and proved him right in the early going. The Hoosiers' main objective coming into the game was to slow down Ohio State big man Kaleb Wesson, but Joey Brunk proved unable to do so in the early going as Wesson scored three times in the post in the first five minutes without breaking much of a sweat. Those three field goals matched his total from Indiana's first matchup with Ohio State.
His early flurry helped open the floor for the rest of the Buckeye offense and OSU took advantage, shooting 60% in the first eight minutes. Wesson has six points and four rebounds at halftime.
Worse for Indiana, its offense, following a hot start, went through all of the same problems it has struggled with on the road most of the season. The Hoosiers went more than six minutes without a point midway through the half, missing six straight shots and turning the ball over three times in that span. Wesson was motivated on defense, as well, and made life difficult for Brunk and De'Ron Davis, who both tried to attack him in the post. Wesson has had problems in the past with foul trouble and Indiana tried to bait him in to contact, but he was mostly disciplined and didn't bite. At halftime, he does have two fouls, so the Hoosiers might be able to keep him off the floor a little in the second half if it keeps attacking him. Indiana's inability to draw fouls also continued a recent free throw-poor trend for the Hoosiers. Indiana went just 3 for 6 from the line in the opening half and did not attempt any until 9:49 remained in the half. For a team that tries to "live at the line" as Miller has put it several times this year, that's not nearly good enough and it's becoming a real problem, further reducing Indiana's already limited offensive capacity.
Indiana is shooting only 40% from the field. This game has followed a formula that has plagued the Hoosiers often on the road this season: shots stop falling, players stop moving on offense, the defense sags a little bit and the turnovers mount (Indiana gave the ball away nine times in the first half, several on simply careless passes). Indiana has simply been out-played in all facets by an Ohio State team that looks like it cares about this game more than the Hoosiers do. It's not even a particularly raucous Buckeyes crowd to intimidate Indiana, the Hoosiers just didn't bring a ton of energy on the road in the early going, though it did pick up slightly in the final minutes of the half.
Part of that resurgence can be attributed to the play of De'Ron Davis. The senior center has struggled to stay healthy most of his Indiana career and he was limited early this season, but he's been getting extended minutes recently and today he gave the Hoosiers a lift that kept them from getting run off the floor. Davis sprinted all over the place on defense as he defended the pick-and-roll, showing hard at the top of the key and then getting back to the post, demonstrating mobility he didn't have early in the season. His intensity helped the Hoosiers force seven straight Buckeye misses late in the half as the visitors crept slightly closer. He also picked up two fouls, however, so that is a situation to watch in the second half.