January, a month that has plagued Ohio State men’s basketball, ended for the team with a win to snap a string of six losses in seven games.
The Buckeyes (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten) return home following a victory at Northwestern for a contest with Indiana (15-6, 5-5) Saturday and an off week in between to recover and prepare for the remaining Big Ten schedule.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for how [Indiana] is playing, the way they play,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “Archie [Miller] and his staff, I think they’ve got a really good team this year.”
Ohio State and Indiana have met once before this season.
The Hoosiers handled the Buckeyes 66-54 in Bloomington, Indiana, with 19 points off the bench from senior guard Devonte Green.
In total, Indiana’s bench outscored Ohio State’s 31-18 in that contest.
“You’ve gotta pay attention in the huddles to what coach is saying,” Ohio State freshman forward E.J. Liddell said. “Days before the games, we have to lock into the scouting report, because some of the guys coming off the bench could be better players than the guys that start. It’s just how different teams have their routines.”
Ohio State also shot 33 percent from the field, indicative of the team’s offensive struggles in January, when it failed to hit 60 points in four different games.
Holtmann said Indiana’s physicality challenged Ohio State in the prior contest, and he expects a similar challenge Saturday.
“They’re a great offensive rebounding team because of their size, and not just their size. They do a great job pursuing the ball,” Holtmann said. “How big and physical they are was probably the thing going into it that we felt the most, and I think we felt that coming out of it.”
Both of the Hoosiers’ top two scorers are at the forward position, with freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis at 14 points per game and junior Justin Smith at 11.6.
The duo was held to 12 combined points and five rebounds against Ohio State Jan. 11, but Green and a 6-for-12 team finish from 3 made up the difference.
“Their guards play well. Green has always played well against us, [Rob] Phinisee played very well against us,” Holtmann said. “I would expect they’ll come in ready to go on Saturday.”
It’s been two games since Ohio State’s own top scoring forward, junior Kaleb Wesson, has seen steady output on the offensive end.
After a 19-point finish against Penn State, Wesson scored a season-low two against Minnesota before cobbling together 11 against Northwestern.
His production could provide an edge against Indiana’s physicality.
Another name that’s popped up recently is Ohio State sophomore forward Justin Ahrens, who’s been limited by injury most of the year. He scored 12 points against Northwestern, his highest total since the 2018-19 season, when he tallied 29 against Iowa Feb. 26.
“I’m as healthy as I’ve felt in months,” Ahrens said. “It’s been an eight-month process. I’m just happy to be able to play every day and maintain healthy status from where I was. It feels good to get my confidence back. My shot feels a lot better.”
The Buckeyes have had a beneficial week off for health and film study since their win against the Wildcats, but Holtmann said he would have preferred to play again right away to maintain the momentum from the victory.
Ohio State and Indiana tip off at noon Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.