CHICAGO — Ohio State’s recipe for success against Indiana was simple: to force turnovers with an aggressive defense and take advantage of Indiana’s mistakes with baskets on the other end.
But late in the second half, Indiana found a game plan of its own, a game plan that hadn’t worked for the majority of the contest.
With 7:10 to go in the game, Indiana junior guard Devonte Green hit a 3, igniting a 13-0 run for the Hoosiers. Indiana, adding a 7-0 run late in the half, cut Ohio State’s lead down to four with a 26-9 run and shooting 58.3 percent from deep in the second half after making 4-of-15 from 3 in the first half.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said he knew his team’s lead would be cut down, that it would end up being much closer. And his message to the Buckeyes during time outs was simple.
“We just kept telling our guys, ‘just get one stop. Make one play and we will see what happens,'” Holtmann said.
With 34 seconds left, that play happened. Ohio State redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods hit a layup while trying to draw a foul, giving Ohio State the five-point lead and the eventual 79-75 victory against Indiana in the second round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday.
“This league is so tough night in and night out. You [can] get beat by anybody if you don’t bring your A-game,” senior guard C.J. Jackson said. “This win is definitely a good win for us.”
After playing 34 minutes in each of his past two games, Woods became one of the main factors to Ohio State’s success, finishing the game with a team-high 18 points, making 9-of-13 from the field, including all five attempts in the first half.
While the first half seemingly belonged to Woods, Jackson and Kaleb Wesson took over the Ohio State offense in the second.
Jackson scored 15 of his 17 points, making 50 percent from the field in 19 minutes played in the second half.
“Our seniors played like seniors,” Holtmann said. “That’s why we won.”
But Ohio State also saw it’s leading scorer return to the lineup. Ohio State sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson returned to the starting lineup after serving a suspension for a violation of team rules.
In his first game back, Holtmann said he did not think he saw a lot of rust from Wesson. The sophomore forward recorded his fourth double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and 13 rebounds, a career high.
“My teammates were making it a big deal in the beginning of the game like ‘we are glad to have you back and we will get you the ball to get you back in your rhythm,” Wesson said.
With 12:32 to play in the game, the sophomore forward recorded a steal in the paint and saw Jackson open. Wesson threw a leading pass to the senior guard across the length of the court, finishing with the layup under the basket.
This kind of play proved to be a major component of Thursday’s win.
In the first half, Ohio State thrived defensively, recording eight steals, including two by Jackson, junior forward Andre Wesson and Woods.
The Buckeyes took advantage, recording 17 points off of turnovers compared to Indiana’s two in the half. Ohio State finished with 24 points off turnovers, adding four steals in the second half.
“We didn’t play perfect by no means, but I think everybody took it upon themselves to be as solid as they could throughout the whole entire game,” sophomore guard Musa Jallow said. “Whenever everybody is doing their role at a high level, I mean you saw it. We can be pretty good.”
Forcing Indiana to make 2-of-15 from the field to start the game, offense continued to not come easy for the Hoosiers in the first half, finishing the half making 30 percent from the field.
Coming into the game shooting 31 percent from 3, No. 324 in the country, Indiana was forced to try and score from deep by the Ohio State defense, attempting 15 3s in the first half and connecting on four.
The Hoosiers began to connect on the deep ball in the second half, shooting 7-of-12 from 3 to help spark the run toward the end of the game, including 8-of-10 made attempts by Green on the game.
Ohio State, specifically freshman guard Luther Muhammad, found his groove midway through the second half.
With 10:46 to go in the game, Muhammad hit his first 3, giving Ohio State the 13-point lead, a lead that would soon expand, igniting a 10-0 run capped off by his second 3 of the day.
Muhammad scored all six of his points in that run.
After what many thought would be a game that determined the NCAA Tournament hopes for both teams, Holtmann said he thinks Ohio State is in a good position moving forward.
“I certainly feel like our body of work speaks for itself,” Holtmann said. “Obviously, Kaleb makes a difference for sure. We saw that, I think as much defensively as offensively, but we have some high level wins. That’s a really good team that we played that was playing exceptionally well.”
Ohio State will move on to take on Michigan State, the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament, at 12:30 p.m. Friday.