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Men’s basketball: Ohio State drops final regular-season game to Indiana in defensive letdown

Ohio State sophomore guard C.J. Jackson attempts a shot over Indiana’s Thomas Bryant on March 4 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta said the Buckeyes defense would have to be at an “all-time high” on Saturday against Indiana to close out the regular season with a win.

It was quite the opposite.

The Indiana Hoosiers (17-14, 7-11 Big Ten) made their first six shots and 13 of their first 15 en route to a 96-92 win over Ohio State on Senior Day at the Schottenstein Center. The Hoosiers shot 59 percent from the field and 65 percent in the first half.

Indiana junior guard Robert Johnson led all scorers with 26 points and snapped his shooting slump by making 10-of-17 shots from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3.

Sophomore center Thomas Bryant, redshirt junior guard Josh Newkirk and junior guard James Blackmon were also in double figures with 16, 18 and 22, respectively.

Junior forward Jae’Sean Tate led the Buckeyes with 20 points. Sophomore guard C.J. Jackson, and sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle each had 18 points, while redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson added 19.

“We scored 92 but they scored 96 so obviously we weren’t playing the defense that we play,” Tate said. “I’m more focused on the defense and giving up 96 points — unacceptable, especially 50-plus at half.”

Johnson had been shooting 7 for 42 combined from 3 in his last eight games, but came out firing from the get-go. Johnson’s early offensive output severely dictated how the game was going to play out for the OSU defense.

“We’re a get-well card for guys,” Matta said. “You’re struggling? Play Ohio State and you get out of your slump just like that. It’s been like that all year long.”

From the tip, OSU was outpaced by the Indiana offense. Blackmon drilled a 3 to cap an 11-0 run in the first two minutes and 18 seconds. Indiana had scored 19 points by the first media timeout and led 32-15 at the under-12 timeout. The Hoosiers led 54-40 at the half.

“It seemed like every shot they were taking was going in,” Tate said. “We knew they were a transition team and that killed us. We didn’t get back, build walls, stop the ball fast enough for them to run their half-court offense, and that was the game plan.”

Matta called for a double team in the post when Bryant caught the ball, and even implemented a zone press on occasion to slow down the Indiana attack. Tate said that at halftime, OSU knew Indiana couldn’t continue to shoot the way it did in the first half.

Sure enough, the Buckeye defense stepped up in the second half, allowing just four points from the 18:05 mark to 9:14 remaining. Starting with a layup from junior forward Jae’Sean Tate and a 3 by sophomore guard C.J. Jackson, the Buckeyes went on a 10-0 run before the first media timeout, cutting the deficit to four.

Then, less than three minutes later, back-to-back 3s from senior guard Marc Loving and Jackson grabbed OSU its first lead of the game, 62-61.

However, Blackmon ended that short-lived lead on the next possession with a 3 of his own. After a Tate layup tied the game at 64, Indiana’s shooting came to life with a 10-0 run. At the final media timeout, the Hoosiers led 84-74.

“They were hitting tough shots, they were making 3s and that kind of killed us from there,” Jackson said.

OSU continued to answer Indiana free throws with buckets of its own. Jackson made a shot from deep with 3.3 seconds remaining to cut the Hoosier lead to 94-92. But Blackmon was iced the game with two free throws with 2.7 seconds left.

With the loss, OSU is now guaranteed to play on Wednesday at the Big Ten Tournament. If Nebraska beats Michigan at home on Sunday night, OSU will be the 12th seed and plays Penn State at 4:30 p.m. If Michigan wins, OSU will be the 11th seed against Rutgers at 7 p.m.

“Every loss is going to not feel too good,” Tate said. “What’s done is done and we just got to prepare to make a run in the tournament.”

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