“I thought we got our head out of the mud after Wednesday (against Northwestern). We were fortunate to win Wednesday, but we got our attitude, we got our heads together and guys were ready to go today.”
Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller was not afraid to admit that his Hoosiers needed to come together and improve if they wanted to survive in the Big Ten this season, and that’s exactly what they did on Saturday during IU’s 66-54 win over Ohio State.
It was a resounding win after a couple week stretch that saw Indiana continuously struggle in conference play, which culminated in just narrowly avoiding a home loss to the worst team in the conference. Though the Hoosiers did ultimately come up with the win against Northwestern, it still brought up questions about whether this team can compete consistently in the Big Ten. Indiana presented their evidence on Saturday and things now look much brighter as they improved to 13-3 overall and 3-2 in conference games.
Facing a talented Buckeyes team that had lost three straight and were looking to right the ship and get back on track, the Hoosiers ended up looking like the team that returned to form as they held Ohio State to just 32.7% shooting (17-of-52) and an ice-cold 21.4% (6-of-28) during the second half.
Indiana secured its second win against a ranked team, but unlike the Florida State win which saw Devonte Green explode for 30 points and saw the Hoosiers outrebound the Seminoles 35 to 25, IU was actually slightly outrebounded by the Buckeyes 36 to 35 and while Green was again the leading scorer for the Hoosiers, it was a much tamer 19 points.
In fact, this game was a far cry from your typical upset as the Hoosiers were far from perfect. Indiana faced multiple extended stretches without making a field goal, including a ridiculous stretch of 11:17 that included the last 9:57 of the first half. Yet the Hoosiers’ defense minimized the damage and the offense made just enough foul shots as Ohio State only outscored Indiana 18-6 during the run and the Buckeyes led just 34-31 at half.
Thankfully the Hoosiers had built a big enough cushion to withstand such a long drought in large part thanks to Rob Phinisee, who started for Green and hit three three-pointers in the first three and a half minutes to help Indiana sprint out to an early 13-5 lead. The Hoosiers would build that lead to 25-16 before the shots stopped falling.
“He came out hot, and that really set the tone for the rest of the team going forward during the game,” praised IU forward Justin Smith. Green added that Phinisee’s hot start also provided energy for both the crowd and the team.
The Hoosiers briefly found a rhythm to start the second half and reclaimed the lead on an 8-0 run before again going a long period without a field goal, this time for five and half minutes. Yet again the defense held serve as Ohio State managed only an 8-1 run during that span and held a 42-40 lead before Green took over the game.
The senior guard ended the field goal drought with a huge three to give Indiana back the lead, and even though Buckeye freshman D.J. Carton answered with a three of his own, it would be the last field goal for the Buckeyes for nearly six minutes as Green would lead Indiana on a 14-3 run that put the game away.
While the Hoosiers did earn a huge win on Saturday, Miller acknowledges that the grind of the Big Ten is only going to get tougher.
“In this league it just becomes such a slugfest, you need a jolt of energy. We got a good jolt of energy (today). Now you’ve got to have some humility and figure out a way to go on the road and compete against Rutgers. It’s going to be 50 times harder than it was (Saturday), and each game that goes by is going to be 50 times harder than that one. We’ve just got to keep raising our level of intensity and we’ve got to stay with it, and I think this team has a chance.”