It has been a disappointing season for the Indiana Hoosiers. But over the last week, they have proven that they will not be a doormat.
For the second consecutive game, the Hoosiers knocked off a rank team inside Assembly Hall. On Thursday, it was the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes. And on Sunday, IU welcomed the No. 22 Ohio St. Buckeyes to Bloomington, Ind.
Unfortunately for Thad Matta & Co., the results were the same.
Despite the absence of Noah Vonleh, Indiana uprooted the 22nd ranked Buckeyes to the tune of 72-64. The loss has Ohio St. reeling, now having lost two games in a row to unranked teams, the first being to Penn St. on Thursday. For Indiana, this brings their record to the still-disappointing 17-12, but perhaps they are gaining steam just in time for the Big Ten Tournament.
Noah Vonleh has been one of Indiana's most significant contributors this season. The 6'10" freshman's usage rate is the second highest of any Hoosier at 21.8 percent, and the big man is nearly averaging a double-double, racking up 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per night.
But to Tom Crean and his club, they seemed to vanquish any doubt that his absence would be a factor. It took some time, but after Lenzelle Smith hit one of two free throws at the 7:54 mark of the 1st half, the Hoosiers were reinvigorated. A 16-0 run catapulted them to a 28-20 lead four minutes later, and sent the Buckeyes off the rails.
The Buckeyes would narrow the gap to six a layup from Smith, but a three-pointer from Will Sheehey pushed the Hoosier lead further and they walked into halftime with a 33-25 lead.
Ohio St. narrowed the gap again late in the 2nd half, but would not get closer than within six in the waning moments in the game. A terrific defensive performance, coupled with the average offensive performance we have grown accustomed to for the Buckeyes this season led Indiana to this Sunday afternoon victory.
The dynamic duo of Kevin Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey was able to reimburse for the lack of Noah Vonleh. Ferrell and Sheehey combined for 39 of IU's 72 points, and the senior forward also grabbed six rebounds and came away with four steals. The Hoosiers might not have been efficient from the field, shooting just 48.0 percent, but were able to sink their free throw attempts, shooting 81.0 percent on 21 attempts.
The big story offensively for the Buckeyes was three-point shooting. Or, to be precise, the lack thereof. Coming into Sunday afternoon ranked 187th in 3PT FG%, the Buckeyes bricked every attempt that they had from downtown, putting up a big goose egg on 11 attempts.
They simply were not able to atone for their embarrassing three-point performance, either. They may have shot 52.1 percent from inside, but were lackluster from the free throw line, shooting only 60.9 percent on 23 attempts.
Simply put, this game saw both ends of the spectrum.
While this was a gritty, defensive-minded performance for Indiana, and it should not be taken away from them in any way, this was a shameful performance from Ohio St. Offense has been a question mark for this team all season, and a disastrous performance in Bloomington, especially from the perimeter, will not make those questions go away as this team heads into both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament as well.
The Buckeyes will look to end the season on a high note as they face another Big Ten team facing struggles of their own: Michigan St., whom Ohio St. will meet next Sunday in Columbus. Meanwhile, looks to continue to roll off victories this week, first against Nebraska on Wednesday in their home finale, and then traveling on the road to Michigan for their final game of the season.