Midway through the second half against Northwestern on Wednesday night, it looked like a season was cratering.
Just a few days later, the Hoosiers picked up one of their biggest wins over the last few years against No. 11 Ohio State. It was the sixth game in the Archie Miller era that the Hoosiers have defeated a ranked team, and at least for a little while, some recent struggles faded into the background.
Back and forth we go.
It’s just going to be like that in the Big Ten.
The grind continues on Wednesday night when Indiana (13-3, 3-2) travels to Rutgers to face a strong Scarlet Knight (12-4, 3-2) squad.
Against a physical team like Ohio State, nothing is going to come easy or necessarily look pretty.
But after losing four in a row in the series, this time Miller had the size to push back against the Buckeyes.
A starting lineup change paid immediate dividends.
Sophomore guard Rob Phinisee got his first start of the season and hit the game’s first shot with a 3-pointer on the Hoosier’s first possession. Phinisee started 3-of-3 from behind the arc in the first 3:20 of the game.
IU carried that early momentum to a 25-16 lead at the 9:57 mark of the first half, but like they have done in recent games, the Hoosiers gave up a big run as their offense struggled. Indiana went without a field goal the rest of the half.
After trailing at halftime, 34-31, the Hoosiers opened up the second half on an 8-0 run, capped off by a redshirt junior Joey Brunk jumper at the 16:13 mark that triggered a Buckeye timeout.
Indiana once again yielded the lead but this time went on a decisive 10-0 run after falling behind, 45-43.
Finally, the Hoosiers ended the game on a 9-4 run and scored the last four points, which was capped off by a Devonte Green two-handed dunk with 10 seconds remaining. Green’s dunk put the Hoosiers up by 12, which was their largest lead of the game.
IU was outrebounded in this one 36-35, but for the most part the Hoosiers stepped up their intensity level and were able to maintain it enough to close out a big win.
While the Hoosiers only scored 66 points, you have to consider the opposition. The Buckeyes are one of the better defensive teams in the country.
Miller saw missed opportunities to put more points on the board.
“If we made some free throws today against a really good defensive team, you’re in the 70s,” Miller said. ” I don’t know how many times Ohio State has given up 70 this season.”
The answer is just twice in 16 games.
“We missed 16 foul shots,” Miller continued. “And some of our best shooters are at the foul line. So like offensively 11 turnovers and being able to be that efficient, we did some good things today.”
Indiana pushed the tempo, and the Hoosiers moved the ball better than they have since the schedule became more difficult in December. Phinisee’s early threes all came within the flow of the offense rather than from one-on-one moves.
Indiana’s assists total was still low, but the Hoosiers took care of the ball and the guards were much more composed than they have been in the last few weeks.
“It’s tough to score on Ohio State,” Miller said. “They have one of the best defenses in the country. We knew it was going to be very difficult to score. But I thought, it always comes down at the end of the day, to play and beat the best, you’ve got to have guard play, and I thought today we had very good guard play.”
Indiana only took 12 three-pointers and made 6. Both of those figures align with what Miller is trying to accomplish with this team. Along those same lines, IU took 36 free throws on the day.
Miller was very happy with the defensive effort against Ohio State.
“We had probably as good of a defensive game as we’ve played overall if you look at the numbers, he said. “We did some really good things there.”
Job one against the Buckeyes was to contend with imposing big man Kaleb Wesson, and IU’s own big men stepped up. Wesson had 11 points, but he only made one two-point shot. Indiana tried hard to keep him from catching the ball in the paint, and they harassed Wesson when he did get the ball.
“Joey and De’Ron specifically did a really good job on Kaleb Wesson,” Justin Smith said after the game. “They really made it difficult for him to catch the ball, and when he did get the ball inside, we really closed down the defense and they played really good defense on him. I mean, you’ve got to tip your hat to those two guys.”
With plenty of big bodies to throw at Wesson, the Hoosiers were able to challenge the Buckeye big man in a way that they haven’t been able to in recent years.
“For the first time that we’ve ever played them, we had good post defense that was able to hang in for the most part,” Miller said.
The return of Phinisee meant more than just production on the offensive end. Indiana’s best on the ball defender led a strong team effort in that regard as well.
“You know, our ball pressure and our guys up after the ball, five guys worked extremely hard on the ball, Miller said.
“It always comes down to your guards setting the tone, and Rob sets the tone for us. He had four steals today. We had 11 steals and four blocks, 15 deflections on the stats sheet. That’s a great number. That’s an active defense.”
IU forced a total of 16 OSU turnovers.
OTHER GAME COVERAGE
- Final box score and specialty stats
- Archie Miller and IU players post-game
- Chris Holtmann post-game comments
- Alan Henderson halftime speech
- Leary and Coyle postgame show
(players with meaningful minutes)
- Joey Brunk* (A-) These are the games where you value Brunk the most. Unless you love post defense you won’t fully appreciate the hard work he put in, but the redshirt junior big man played a big role in this one.
- Justin Smith* (B-) Smith really struggled to get anything going on the offensive end. For the most part he was taking good shots, but nothing was falling. IU also needs more from Smith on the glass. He was strong defensively however.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis* (B) The freshman big man faced a lot of double teams offensively and wasn’t a big factor on the boards. He passed well out of the post, and Jackson-Davis was able to keep Kyle Young from having a big impact on the game.
- Devonte Green* (A) After losing his starting job, 29 minutes and a team leading 19 points didn’t seem likely. The effort showed good resolve by Green, and he played those minutes against a tough defense without committing a turnover while he helped force OSU’s guards into 8 miscues.
- Al Durham* (B) Struggled to take care of the ball and wasn’t a factor offensively, but Durham’s presence was felt on the defensive end.
- Rob Phinisee (A-) Phinisee struggled from the field after his 3-for-3 start from three point range, but he had a team leading 7 rebounds along with 4 steals. Indiana is a much better team when Phinisee impacts games like this. He seemed to be dealing with an injury down the stretch.
- Jerome Hunter (A-) Hunter was able to get to the free throw line, and Miller praised his defensive effort as the redshirt freshman saw extensive action in key moments.
- Armaan Franklin (C+) A moment where Franklin hesitated to go after a loose ball caused Miller to react aggressively — and the true freshman guard never saw the floor again. He had a nice and-one drive to the bucket, but obviously his head coach is looking for more intensity.
- Race Thompson (B+) Knocked down a three-pointer which is a key for Thompson to see the floor. Also added two rebounds in just five minutes.
- De’Ron Davis (B) A lot of things didn’t necessarily go well, but Davis was able to put a body on Wesson and contribute to the effort of limiting the OSU big man.
Note: Damezi Anderson was ill and did not play in the game.
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