It is as cliche as it gets, but Sunday afternoon’s tilt against the Ohio State Buckeyes certainly seems like a must win game for Indiana.
It’s a must win in the sense that there may not be room for the likes of both Ohio State and Indiana, and their similar resumes, in the NCAA tournament. In that vein, it would especially problematic for the Hoosiers if Ohio State ends up holding a road win in Bloomington.
It’s a must win also because there isn’t a game in the next six contests that Indiana has a better chance on paper to claim a victory. The Buckeyes started the season strong, carrying over the momentum of last year’s surprisingly good campaign. But a five game losing streak when Big Ten play resumed in January finds OSU much like Indiana — in search of an identity.
Finally, it’s a must win of course because this IU team has lost eight of nine games, and well, at some point you have to stop the bleeding.
What needs to happen and what has happened hasn’t always lined up for Indiana over the last six weeks. Can the Hoosiers save their season? We are about to find out.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Ohio State (15-7, 5-6) at Indiana (13-10, 4-8)
- Tip time: 1:00 p.m. Eastern
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
- Television: CBS (Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner)
- Series: Indiana leads 107-83 (Ohio State won the last meeting 80-78 2OT in Bloomington)
- Point Spread: KenPom has Indiana by 2 points.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
Chris Holtmann is in his second season leading the Ohio State program.
OHIO STATE LEADERS
Points per game
- Kaleb Wesson: 14.9
- C.J. Jackson: 13.0
- Luther Muhammad: 10.2
- Andre Wesson: 8.6
Rebounds per game
- Kaleb Wesson: 6.5
- Kyle Young: 4.8
Assists per game
- C.J. Jackson: 3.6
- Keyshawn Woods: 2.6
Blocks per game
- K. Wessson / Young / A. Wesson: .5
Steals per game
- C.J. Jackson: 1.2
- Luther Muhammad: 1.1
Turnovers per game
- C.J. Jackson: 2.5
- Kaleb Wesson: 2.2
(You can always find a link to IU’s stats from our Men’s Basketball drop down menu)
TALE OF THE TAPE
See how the Hoosiers and Buckeyes stack up statistically:
KEYS TO VICTORY
First to Foul Trouble. Kaleb Wesson (6-foot-9, 270 pounds) is Ohio State’s leading scorer and rebounder, and the Buckeyes are a different team when he isn’t in the game. The same pretty much holds true for Indiana and Juwan Morgan. Both have been plagued with foul trouble all year. Wesson and Morgan are likely to be matched up in this one, and the first one to get in foul trouble is likely to put his team in a bind.
The Hoosiers might also look to get De’Ron Davis matched up with Wesson given his size and to create mismatches when both Davis and Morgan are in the game.
Attack the Rim. Indiana is not a great perimeter shooting team, and Ohio State is not great at protecting the rim with shot blockers. Of course the Buckeyes will likely look to pack it in and force IU to shoot over the top but Indiana needs to impose its will with getting the ball in the paint either through dribble penetration or the post. This will also increase the likelihood that Kaleb Wesson picks up fouls. Beyond Wesson, OSU commits a lot of fouls. This could be a game where Indiana might live at the free throw line, which as you know could be a blessing — or a curse.
Dominate the Glass. Somehow Indiana managed to outrebound one of the top rebounding teams in the country in Michigan State. But IU hasn’t shown a consistent ability to dedicate itself to the glass. Ohio State is not a particularly big team, and they don’t look to push the tempo. That should create an opportunity for Indiana to grab a meaningful rebounding margin on both ends of the floor and create extra scoring opportunities on the offensive end.
Get off to a Good Start. It’s obvious, but it also must be said. In it’s last three home games, IU has fallen behind 26-9, 20-2 and 9-2 to Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa, respectively. That has forced a struggling offense to play catch up, which isn’t a formula for success. It isn’t clear what kind of crowd will show up, but whoever is there will be desperately looking for something to get excited about. Conversely, another slow start will take the air right out of the building. Indiana will need to play aggressive and fundamentally sound defense that leads to transition opportunities going the other way.
PREDICTION: Indiana 72 Ohio State 68.
In recognition of Black History Month and the 70th anniversary of IU great Bill Garrett breaking the Big Ten Basketball color barrier, IU will wear a special uniforms against OSU. The uniforms also honor the Harlem Renaissance Movement of the early 20th Century and its impact on the African-American community and the sport of basketball.
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