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Indiana’s big 3 dooms Ohio State men’s basketball

It was clear who Indiana’s top three players were in its victory against Ohio State.
The trio of Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Christian Watford each scored more than 20 points (they combined for 70) to out-score the entire Buckeye team and fuel the top-ranked Hoosiers to an 81-68 victory Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
It was also clear who OSU’s best player was. Deshaun Thomas, as he has most of the season, led the Buckeyes in scoring with 26 points.
But after Thomas, there appears to be a void as to who the Buckeyes can rely on a night-to-night basis offensively and, as Indiana showed, three scorers are better than one.
“You’re not going to win too many games with three guys scoring over 20,” said junior guard Aaron Craft.
Craft has emphasized all season the importance of winning at home, especially in conference play. The top-five teams in the Big Ten standings are separated by two games or less, and have lost a combined three home conference games.
Indiana (21-3, 9-2) and OSU (17-6, 7-4) saw firsthand earlier in the week the challenges of winning on the road. OSU lost in overtime to No. 3 Michigan on Tuesday, and Indiana lost at the buzzer to unranked Illinois two days later.
Zeller, a preseason All-American sophomore center, only shot six times in that loss, something the Hoosiers were ardent on improving against the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers fed their 7-footer early and often as he scored the game’s first bucket, had 12 points at halftime and finished with 24.
“We really needed to get the ball in the paint,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “It was very important that the ball hit the paint because our statistics, when they hit the paint, are very high percentage-wise. We did the best job all of (our Big Ten games) of feeding the post today.”
Perhaps more important, Zeller drew two early fouls on sophomore center Amir Williams, forcing him out of the game. Three Buckeye big men tried their luck against Zeller, but the three Buckeyes combined for five fouls in the first half and 10 for the game. Williams finished with four fouls, and senior forward Evan Ravenel fouled out.
“Sometimes the refs are going to call it tight, sometimes the refs aren’t,” Ravenel said. “You can’t worry about it.”
Indiana’s best option offensively was Oladipo, who matched Thomas’ effort with 26 points of his own on 8 of 10 shooting.
In the first half’s waning minutes, the junior guard converted back-to-back acrobatic buckets, the last of which cam when he grabbed a loose ball, sprinted down the lane and finished with a high-flying, two-handed slam to give Indiana an eight-point advantage. Oladipo also grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists.
The Buckeyes took their first lead, 13-11, when Thomas connected on a 3-pointer from the wing, eliciting a roar from the sold-out crowd at the Schottenstein Center – some of which had been camping out in anticipation of the game since Wednesday.
But Indiana, supported in part by two first-half 3-pointers from Watford, took a 41-33 lead into the locker room. Watford, a senior, hit four long balls on the day and finished with 20 points.
Three free throws from Thomas drew OSU within four early in the second half, but as was the case for most of the game, Indiana answered with a run of its own as Oladipo sunk a 3-pointer at the 15:32 mark to extend the lead back to nine. The Buckeyes never got closer than seven for the rest of the game.
“We’d make a run and they’d make a 5-0 run back at us and kept their composure,” Craft said.
OSU coach Thad Matta agreed.
“We couldn’t gain that momentum,” Matta said. “Unfortunately we didn’t guard them at the level we needed to guard them.”
Indiana shot 59 percent in the second half and 53 percent for the game. OSU shot 42 percent.
Thomas was the only Buckeye in double figures until below the 3:30 mark in the second half. Craft finished with 16 points and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross added 11.
The loss marks the end of a difficult week for OSU and broke the Buckeyes’ streak of 121 consecutive games without consecutive losses. Between Michigan and Indiana, the Buckeyes played two of the top three teams in the nation during a six-day span.
“Typical week in our conference,” Craft said. “We got a few games left and every one of them is going to be a dog fight just like these were.”
The Buckeyes play Northwestern Thursday at the Schottenstein Center at 7 p.m. and the Buckeyes like their chances for the rest of the season.
“I feel as though we have the ability and the team and the personnel to beat those guys any day of the week going forward,” Ravenel said.

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