Defense wins championships, as the old adage goes in football. The way Ohio State played on defense against Indiana tonight, the saying could be true in basketball too.
In a late-season matchup of top Big Ten conference foes, a battle between Indiana’s high-powered defense and Ohio State’s stingy defense, the Buckeyes prevailed, 67-58. National Player of the Year candidate Victor Oladipo was a non-factor most of the night, as the Hoosiers sputtered at home on Senior Night. The Buckeyes (22-7, 12-5 Big Ten) displayed outstanding defense while utilizing an all-around offensive effort to upset #2 Indiana (25-5, 13-4 Big Ten).
Though Indiana big man Cody Zeller notched 17 points on the night, Oladipo only managed seven after racking up 26 the last time the two teams faced off. Ohio State didn’t allow many open looks for the junior guard, as Oladipo only took six shots on the night. Foul trouble affected the playmaker early, as he collected two fouls in the first that forced him to sit on the bench for much of the first stanza. He did not record a point in the first half. The duo of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft was much more successful. Thomas tallied 18 points to lead OSU in scoring, though the junior only shot 6 for 17 on the night. Craft controlled the game, especially in the second. The OSU point guard paced the Bucks with 15 points, shooting 7 of 10 from the field. Down the stretch, Craft’s big buckets ensured that the Hoosiers would not come back from a late 11-point deficit.
But while Craft was magnificent, Ohio State’s all-around offensive production was the key to earning the victory. Sam Thompson contributed nine points, and was especially effective in the first half. Evan Ravenel came off the bench in relief of Amir Williams and scored eight in 20 minutes of playing time. Ravenel also looked stellar on defense as the game wore on, preventing the Hoosiers from collecting easy buckets as they are prone to do. Shannon Scott had an eight point evening and also recorded four of the team’s eight steals. His efforts helped the Buckeyes hold the Hoosiers scoreless for a period of over five minutes towards the end of the second half.
The signs of a possible upset became apparent right from the start. Indiana could not find the groove on offense early, while Ohio State showed great composure even as the fans at Assembly Hall roared at the visitors. Outstanding defense forced the Hoosiers to play OSU’s favorite type of game: a low-scoring, duke-it-out affair, especially early on. Indiana shot a mere 34.5% from the field in the first, resulting in a slight 28-25 OSU lead heading into the break.
Tonight’s victory not only gives the Buckeyes momentum heading into the regular season finale against Illinois. Ohio State’s road win over #2 Indiana gives the Bucks sole possession of the number two spot in the conference standings. With a Michigan win over Indiana on Sunday, the Buckeyes will claim a portion of the regular season conference title. But if the Hoosiers manage a win over the Wolverines on the road, Indiana would earn sole ownership of the league title. No matter what the outcome of that affair, Ohio State captured a huge road victory tonight. When allowed to play a defensive game, the Buckeyes can hang around with anybody. Add in all-around offensive contribution, and the Bucks are a team to fear as Tournament season quickly approaches.