Friday, February 23, 2018 3:50 pm
Pregame: Indiana (16-13, 9-8 Big Ten) vs. No. 16 Ohio State (23-7, 14-3)
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
It's already Senior Day; the final regular season game for the Hoosiers is upon us.
The season seems like it passed remarkably quickly, although maybe that's just because I only began covering the team in late January. At any rate, five seniors will play their final game in Assembly Hall on Friday night: Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, Freddie McSwain Jr., Josh Newkirk and Tim Priller.
The Hoosiers have a chance to send those players off with a huge victory against one of the elite teams in the conference. After flying through most of their Big Ten schedule, the Buckeyes have hit a bit of a speed bump recently, losing decisively against Penn State and No. 22 Michigan last week before recovering with an easy 79-52 victory over Rutgers.
I expect Indiana to come out playing with even more energy than its shown recently. IU coach Archie Miller talked repeatedly in his press conference Thursday about how the Buckeyes were tougher and more physical the first time these teams met in late January. If he's saying that to the media, imagine how often he's been reminding his players of it. The Hoosiers were tough against Michigan State, outrebounding the best rebounding team in the country to that point 53-29 and nearly upsetting the Spartans at home. After the game, Juwan Morgan said Michigan State had "punked" the Hoosiers before and they weren't going to let it happen again.
That's the type of pride this team has and I think it will play with a similar ferocity Friday, especially on Senior Night. Unlike Michigan State, which is simply playing at a level Indiana can't really match even on its best night, Ohio State is eminently beatable right now. Keita Bates-Diop, who at one point led the conference in scoring and averages 19 points per game, hasn't reached that average in any of his last five games and scored just six on 3-for-11 shooting against Rutgers. The Hoosiers did a good job of limiting the forward the last time, but couldn't get keep him off the glass as he piled up 13 rebounds and blocked four shots for good measure.
If Indiana comes out with energy in the first few minutes, it can turn the game in its favor quickly. The Hoosiers were flat the last time out against the Buckeyes, falling behind 27-10, but played them even the rest of the night. Playing at home should give them an early boost tonight.
What I'm watching for
How Indiana defends Kaleb Wesson: The freshman Buckeye center went 7 for 7 in his first meeting with the Hoosiers, scoring all 14 of his points in the paint. Juwan Morgan mostly guarded him in the paint, while Freddie McSwain Jr. was often on Bates-Diop. I'll be watching to see whether that pattern holds or whether the two forwards switch roles. What will Justin Smith's role be? The freshman has been much better on defense of late. He could be asked to guard Bates-Diop for certain stretches.
Prediction: Indiana 68, Ohio State 64