For weeks, Ohio State coach Thad Matta has been praising the work that freshman forward Deshaun Thomas has been putting in during practice. Playing against a school from his home state Sunday, Thomas showed the nation what Matta was talking about.
Thomas scored 22 points, as the No. 2-ranked OSU men’s basketball team (27-2, 14-2 Big Ten) defeated Indiana (12-17, 3-13 Big Ten), 82-61, at the Schottenstein Center, moving the Buckeyes one step closer to a Big Ten title and possibly the nation’s top ranking.
With No. 1 Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, the win might help the Buckeyes ascend to the top of the polls for the second time this season. If the Buckeyes regain the No. 1 spot, it will be because of the player who wears jersey No. 1.
Entering the game with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half, and the Buckeyes leading the Hoosiers, 16-10, Thomas broke open the game by single-handedly fueling a 14-3 OSU run — which included two 3-point shots — en route to a game-high 22 points.
“It was just getting to the spots,” Thomas said. “After I hit my first two threes, then I felt kind of warm and I felt comfortable.”
The scoring outburst by the Indiana native couldn’t have come at a better time for the Buckeyes, after freshman forward Jared Sullinger, the team’s leading scorer on the season, picked up two personal fouls and played just three minutes in the first half. Thomas finished with 16 first-half points, as OSU took a 38-23 lead into halftime.
“Deshaun came in and gave us a tremendous boost scoring the ball,” Matta said. “He warms up pretty doggone quick.”
The Buckeyes didn’t let up in the second half, leading Indiana by as many as 27 points and never letting the lead drop below double digits.
After the game, OSU fifth-year senior forward David Lighty said Buckeyes’ defensive effort was the key to their second win this season against the Hoosiers.
“Holding down our defense, getting back to where we started at the beginning of the season — I thought we did a good job of that holding them under 40 percent shooting,” Lighty said. “Just playing Ohio State basketball pretty much for 40 minutes.”
Junior guard William Buford added 15 points, including two off a second-half alley-oop from Lighty, who scored 11 points.
Sullinger finished the game with a season-low five points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes of action.
With the win, OSU stays a full game ahead of Purdue in the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes and Boilermakers each have two regular-season conference games remaining.
The Buckeyes return to action at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Penn State, when a win against the Nittany Lions will earn them a share of their second consecutive regular-season Big Ten title.
“This is honestly what college basketball is all about,” Matta said. “When you play in as competitive of a league as we’re in, you just got to play through and do the best that you possibly can.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: Feb. 28, 2011
An earlier version of the photo slideshow accompanying this article stated the game was at the Jerome Shottenstein Center. It was at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.