BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — As memorable as a season the Ohio State men’s basketball team has had, this one game won’t be soon forgotten.
Indiana forward Juwan Morgan made a layup against the potential Big Ten Player of the Year, forward Keita Bates-Diop, with 7.4 seconds left in double overtime, seemingly ending Ohio State’s chances of winning a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship.
C.J. Jackson had something to say about that.
Taking the ball from the opposite baseline, the junior guard drove down the court and pulled up from 24 feet, released a clean look and hit nothing but net to give Ohio State (24-7, 15-3 Big Ten) an 80-78 lead with 1.6 seconds remaining in overtime to silence the packed crimson-and-cream crowd inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The last desperation attempt from the Hoosiers (16-14, 9-9 Big Ten) fell well short and the No. 16 Buckeyes escaped with a victory in the regular-season finale to preserve their chance at a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship.
“It’s been an unbelievable way to cap an unbelievable regular season,” head coach Chris Holtmann said.
Jackson finished the game with 13 points. Bates-Diop had 24 points with 14 rebounds and redshirt senior guard Kam Williams scored 15. Senior Jae’Sean Tate and freshman Kaleb Wesson also were in double figures.
Morgan had a team-high 18 points for Indiana. Senior guard Robert Johnson and freshman forward Justin Smith had 17 and 16, respectively.
It was only fitting that Ohio State’s improbable season and prospects of winning a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship would come down to an overtime game in one of college basketball’s most historic venues against one of its most historic programs.
It was ludicrous to think it would come down to two.
There were a total of 16 lead changes and 14 ties, including nine lead changes in the final overtime that ended with Jackson shot to seal Ohio State’s first win at Indiana in five years.
“We knew they weren’t going to go away,” Jackson said. “Senior Night, home night, they were going to have a lot of energy. We just had to match it.”
In the past two road games, Ohio State struggled to match the energy of the opponent, which resulted in double-digit losses. Now, the Buckeyes were much better on the glass than they were against Penn State and Michigan last week, outrebounding Indiana 41-35, but to continually respond bucket after bucket in multiple do-or-die situations left Holtmann and the team with an added confidence heading into postseason play.
“This team does have a grit to it that is necessary in a game like this, particularly on the road,” Holtmann said. “I think at the end of the day, that’s what you’re trying to preach from Day 1 and that’s what you hope to have guys that have that to them. To have that stuff inside them that we all look at and can identify as resiliency and grit and able to stay with it and not let one play affect the other. And they did that.”
Bates-Diop scored 20-plus points for the first time since he scored a career-high 35 against Illinois on Feb. 4. He shot 9-of-24 from the field, but came away with some needed baskets in the final minutes of regulation.
“I’ve been struggling the last few games, but tonight I got back into a rhythm,” he said.
Ohio State shot 48 percent from the field and recorded 16 assists on 33 made field goals.
With the win, Ohio State remains one game behind Michigan State for first place in the Big Ten. The Spartans have already clinched at least a share of the conference title and can win it outright with a win at Wisconsin on Sunday. If the Spartans lose, Ohio State will earn a share of the title and be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next week.
Ohio State will play Friday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament in New York. Its opponent will be determined when the conference season officially ends Sunday.