BLOOMINGTON -- After weeks of offensive stagnation, Indiana got off to one of its best starts of the season on that end of the court.
The driving force was point guard Rob Phinisee, who made his first start of the season and came out playing like he wanted to stay in the starting lineup.
Phinisee hit a trio of 3-pointers in the first four minutes to push the Hoosiers to an early lead and get Ohio State on its heels early.
The key for Phinisee in those early minute was decisiveness. When he got the ball and was open, he put it up without hesitating. So often lately, Indiana has passed up good looks from beyond the arc as its poor shooting has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Phinisee flipped that on its head, catching and shooting with confidence and helping the Hoosiers get the crowd engaged early.
Once the ball started going in, Indiana's offense began humming along, with the ball moving better and more shots falling than they have in recent memory: Indiana made its first four attempts from 3-point range. All of that came against one of the better defensive teams in the country.
From a pure effort standpoint, the early part of the half was as locked-in as Indiana has looked since the middle of December. Whatever buttons Archie Miller pressed at practice during the last couple of days clearly worked. It's also a testament to the idea that it's much easier to fly around and be active on defense when shots are falling on offense. In essence, success breeds success.
Once shots started falling, the Hoosiers played with more confidence in every facet of the game. At halftime, the Hoosiers have turned the ball over just four times.
Down the stretch of the half, however, Indiana hit one of the offensive ruts that have become all too frequent recently. The Hoosiers missed 16 of 17 field goal attempts and went without a field goal for the final 9:57 of the half. The Buckeyes ripped off a 15-1 run to take the lead after the Hoosiers had led by as many as nine.
It was a disappointing end to what had been a terrific performance much of the half. The Hoosiers also missed some opportunities for points with a 9-for-17 performance at the foul line.
One interesting development in the first half has been how Archie Miller has divvied up playing time. Phinisee starting over Devonte Green was notable, but the much-discussed shrinking of the rotation has not happened. Damezi Anderson is out with an illness, but each of the other 10 scholarship players for Indiana saw the court within the first 10 minutes of the game.
All five bench players scored in the first half, which is a welcome sign for a team that has struggled to get production from some of its role players. Jerome Hunter, Race Thompson and De'Ron Davis looked as confident as they have all season and Davis especially was more active than I can remember seeing him. It's possible that he's finally getting healthy, which would be huge for this team.
Miller wanted to find a group that can play well together consistently, but today he hasn't had any problem mixing and matching lineups because the entire Indiana roster was so locked in to start.
A huge factor in Indiana's success early in the first half was its ability to limit OSU big man Kaleb Wesson. The junior is one of the craftiest post players in the country, but he missed his first four shots from the field and has only seven points and three rebounds at halftime (none of his points have come from the paint). Indiana (particularly Davis and Brunk) has done a good job against him defensively, and although he's affected the game with a couple of blocks in transition, the Hoosiers will gladly take that level of production.