Indiana Hoosiers bottle up Ohio State's high-powered offense in blowout win
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – For a second, there looked to be an opening in the Indiana defense.
Trailing 47-45 near the midpoint of the second half on Thursday, Malaki Branham got near the rim with an aggressive drive but, rather than attempt the shot against Trayce Jackson-Davis, he dumped it to the other side of the paint to E.J. Liddell, who was immediately swarmed to force a jump ball. Possession stayed with the Buckeyes, who moments earlier had trailed by six, and a baseline out of bounds play was called to get the team’s go-to player a look going downhill.
It worked — almost. Liddell managed to get near to where Branham had been, and he, too, seemed to have an opening for a layup. Instead, he picked up his dribble and attempted a pass back upcourt that was picked off by the Hoosiers.
Trey Galloway sprinted with the ball, drew a foul and hit both free throws to push the Hoosiers' lead to four points. Ohio State would get no closer on what would be its ugliest offensive performance in nearly three years as Indiana handed the No. 13 Buckeyes a 67-51 loss that was as decisive as it was jarring.
“I thought we missed some open shots, but I thought also that we just weren’t able to impose ourself enough through the paint on drives,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Got bodied up on drives. Put ourselves in too difficult of a position at times driving the ball and getting the ball tipped or blocked. I didn’t think our rim decisions were great.”
The numbers tell the story. Indiana outscored Ohio State 38-10 in the paint. Of Indiana’s 25 made field goals, 23 came from inside the 3-point line. Jackson-Davis led all scorers with 27 points and was 11 for 17 from the field, all from 2-point range. Indiana won by 16 points despite going 2 for 15 (13.3%) from 3-point range.
The Buckeyes? Of their 52 field goal attempts, only 25 came from inside the 3-point range (48.1%). Of those 25, only eight went in (32.0%). After halftime, the Buckeyes made eight shots, and seven of them were 3-pointers.
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Everywhere Ohio State looked, Indiana was there. And if the Buckeyes got near the rim, Jackson-Davis was there to clean things up, finishing with five blocks.
“They certainly controlled the paint, both offensively and defensively,” Holtmann said. “I thought E.J. got bodied and knocked off a couple of his shots, but he’s also got to kind of play through, not contact, but play to score the ball. In general, we’ve got to find ways to put him in better spots but the paint was the difference for sure.
“I just think having Trayce on the back line presents a lot of problems, his ability to play on the back line and do some things.”
In a lot of ways, the offensive performance resembled the Xavier loss on Nov. 18. The Buckeyes set new season lows in 2-point field goals made (eight), 2-point shooting percentage (.320), total field goals made (16), field-goal percentage (.308), points in the paint (10), second-chance points (two) and points per possession (.785). Ohio State’s previous season lows in each of those categories save for second-chance points came against the Musketeers.
In that game, though, the Buckeyes trailed by two points in the final 20 seconds before losing by six. This time, Ohio State was outscored 21-6 in the final 10 minutes as it still seemed to be shaking off rust in its second game back after a 22-day COVID-19 pause. Liddell, in particular, has struggled since the return, going 5 for 26 (19.2%) from the floor and 2 for 10 (20.0%) from 3 in his past two games while combining for fewer points (21) than in his final game before the break (28 against Wisconsin on Dec. 11).
“You learn from these situations and get better,” second-year guard Meechie Johnson Jr. said. “It’s a long, long season. We’re preparing to be in the tournament, the Big Ten championship. We’re planning to be in the NCAA Tournament and make a far run, so this is not the end of us.”
The journey resumes Sunday at home against Northwestern.