Desperate for a victory to keep some hold of forward momentum after beating Northwestern one week prior, Ohio State got away and played keep away from Indiana Saturday.
Junior forward Kaleb Wesson and a healthy dose of rebounding led the Buckeyes (14-7, 4-6 Big Ten) to a 68-59 victory over Indiana (15-6, 5-6) at the Schottenstein Center.
“Players win games, and I thought we had great leadership,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “In particular between Kaleb and CJ Walker on both ends. Great win for our group.”
Kaleb Wesson returned to his team-best scoring, team-best rebounding form against the Hoosiers, piling up 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting with 11 boards.
“I thought Kaleb Wesson was terrific on both ends,” Holtmann said. “It’s his work, he’s gotta continue to stay in great shape. I thought he created some real opportunities for other guys. I thought he protected the rim pretty well.”
His impact was felt most in the second half, a period that opened with a nine-point Ohio State lead. A 3-pointer by Indiana redshirt freshman forward Jerome Hunter sliced the advantage to 40-32, but the Ohio native responded with a 3-pointer of his own.
When the Hoosiers answered back with a layup, Kaleb Wesson hit another shot to cap a run in which he scored nine of the Buckeyes’ 11 points.
“Our coaches are putting me in spots to get the ball and get my shots off. My teammates are finding me,” Wesson said. “I feel like that contributes to my work, and my teammates believe in me, and I hit them.”
Ohio State sophomore forward Justin Ahrens came off the bench to hit back-to-back 3s, and at 58-40 with 7:59 to play, the game’s conclusion was long forgone.
Behind Kaleb Wesson, Ahrens and redshirt junior guard CJ Walker both tallied double figures in the scoring column for Ohio State. Sophomore guard Rob Phinisee led the way for Indiana with 11.
For all the concerns Holtmann aired on the matter during his press conference Thursday, the Buckeyes outrebounded the Hoosiers 31-24 Saturday.
Indiana failed to muster second-chance looks until it was too far behind to matter, failing to secure its first offensive rebound until 1:33 remained in the first half.
Its next didn’t come until 6:18 remained in the second.
“They imposed their will physically on the boards,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said. “That was the difference in the game, especially early. We could not rebound the ball, it’s the first time all season long that I can really recall our team just getting housed on the glass like that.”
Because of the extra possessions generated, Ohio State managed its comfortable margin of victory despite a razor-thin shooting edge of 46 percent to 45 percent.
“That was a major emphasis for us coming in, because their free throw rate is really high in the league, and their rebounding,” Holtmann said. “It was a point of emphasis. Guys did a great job.”
Kaleb Wesson opened on a 3-for-3 shooting tear, but it wasn’t enough to give the Buckeyes a lead.
The 9-0 run that followed was.
Indiana failed to score for 6:30 as four different Buckeyes scored to open a 15-7 lead the team never relinquished.
While stout defense captured the Buckeye lead, triples expanded it. Senior forward Andre Wesson and sophomore guard Luther Muhammad each cashed in from deep and the lead grew to 27-13 with 6:13 to play in the first half.
Indiana trimmed the advantage to 31-19 with the seconds winding down in the first half. Ohio State had an opportunity for the final shot, but Andre Wesson was whistled for a travel and Indiana senior guard Devonte Green hit a half-court buzzer beater to place the halftime tally at 31-22.
Ohio State’s season continues at Michigan Tuesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.