Bloomington – The mass exodus from Assembly Hall started early.
By the time the final horn sounded on Indiana’s 69-52 defeat to Ohio State, the benches had been emptied by both coaches and more than half of the 16,442 had long since left Assembly Hall for home.
Those who departed early didn’t miss out on much down the stretch - other than perhaps seeing IU Athletics Director Fred Glass running with the ‘I’ flag during the William Tell Overture at the eight-minute timeout. By that point, Ohio State had long since erased any doubt about this game’s outcome.
With Evan Turner limited to 10 points due to early foul trouble, William Buford scored 21 points and Dallas Lauderdale added 14 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks to help Ohio State (19-6/9-3) complete the season sweep over Indiana and move into a three-way tie for the Big Ten lead with Michigan State and Illinois.
Indiana, which got 15 points from Christian Watford and 13 from Jordan Hulls, fell to 9-14 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten.
The loss was Indiana’s fifth straight and had IU Coach Tom Crean trying to come up with ways to lift the spirits of his team afterwards. Crean didn’t arrive in his post-game press conference until approximately 50 minutes after the final horn, taking that time to talk with his team as he tries to find ways to get them refocused for a very difficult final month of the regular season. On the heels of this loss to the No. 13 Buckeyes, Indiana must now take on No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 10 Michigan State in the next six days.
“We’ve gone to the well with them a lot in the sense of them being up and excited for games and we ran out of air tonight,” Crean said. “Ohio State played well, but I don’t think it was as much what they did as our lack of alertness, our lack of resolve and our lack of inner-confidence to get things righted.”
Ohio State certainly didn’t prove to be the right team to get things righted, despite a below-par effort from Turner. The prohibitive favorite to win the Big Ten Player of the Year award, Turner picked up his second foul at the 17:25 mark of the first half and spent the remainder of the half on the bench. After Indiana had erased an early 9-0 deficit and closed to within two with six minutes left, Ohio State Coach Thad Matta admitted that he was ready to put Turner back in the game to slow Indiana’s momentum.
It proved to be unnecessary. After a Watford 3-pointer had cut OSU’s lead to 22-20 with 6:09 remaining in the half, the Hoosiers missed their final five shots and turned the ball over in bunches. Indiana wound up turning it over seven times down the stretch paving the way for a 12-0 Ohio State run that produced Ohio State’s biggest lead of the half, 34-20.
“It’s a gut feel for what you want to do,” Matta said about the thought of re-inserting Turner into the lineup. “He’s smart enough to play with two fouls in the first half. But I liked what I was seeing out there.”
What Matta was seeing was an OSU defense that was turning Indiana over with regularity. Indiana turned the ball over on each of its final six first-half possessions, leading to eight points off turnovers and a 14-point lead that Indiana would never seriously threaten in the second half.
“Our defense really stepped up,” Matta said. “We were able to get some easy baskets off turnovers. I thought that was the biggest difference.”
Indiana, meanwhile, managed to do very little in its efforts to create the same sort of havoc for Ohio State’s offense. The Buckeyes made only 2-of-10 attempts from behind the 3-point arc, but made up for that with a slew of easy scores against Indiana’s man-to-man defense as well as its 2-3 zone. All seven of Lauderdale’s baskets came at point blank range, including five dunks. Ohio State finished with eight dunks as a team and had another breakaway dunk miss when David Lighty’s uncontested, breakaway acrobatic attempt ricocheted off the back of the iron.
In addition to the easy scores, the Buckeyes turned the ball over only six times all game, with four of those coming in the game’s final five minutes after the verdict had long since been decided. Ohio State went nearly 21 minutes during one stretch without a turnover , outscoring IU45-26 during that period of time.
It all added up to an effort that had Crean trying to lift the spirits of an obviously demoralized team.
“At halftime, it was like if I could have found Anthony Robbins and Dr. Phil and Oprah and the whole group to come in there and help me cheer them up, I felt like Old Marcus Welby,” Crean said. “We were going to fall apart if we didn’t get some spirit back. It’s mental more than anything else. They’re a lot more beat up mentally than they are physically.”
Watford 5-13 3-4 15, Pritchard 3-5 0-4 6, Hulls 5-9 0-0 13, Rivers 2-4 0-0 4, Jones 4-11 3-3 11, Barnett 0-1 0-0 0, Finkelmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Muniru 0-0 0-0 0, Capobianco 0-0 0-0 0, Elston 0-2 0-0 0 Dumes 1-5 1-3 3, Jobe 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 7-14 52.
OHIO STATE 69
Turner 2-4 6-9 10, Lauderdale 7-9 0-0 14, Lighty 2-11 2-2 6, Diebler 1-4 0-0 3, Buford 9-17 2-2 21, Simmons 1-3 0-0 2, Hill 1-2 0-0 2, Peters 0-0 0-0 0, Madsen 4-5 3-3 11, Kecman 0-1 0-0 0, Sarikopoulos 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 13-16 69.
3-Pointers: Indiana 5-11 (Hulls 3-3, Watford 2-3, Dumes 0-2, Elston 0-1, Jones 0-1, Barnett 0-1), Ohio State 2-10 (Diebler 1-3, Buford 1-3, Lighty 0-1, Simmons 0-1, Hill 0-1, Kecman 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 37 (Watford 7), Ohio State 33 (Lauderdale 8). Assists: Indiana 11 (Rivers 3, Jones 3), Ohio State 17 (Turner 6). Blocks: Indiana 4 (Watford 2, Pritchard 1, Capobianco 1), Ohio State 9 (Lauderdale 7, Turner 2). Turnovers: Indiana 14, Ohio State 6. Steals: Indiana 2, Ohio State 4. Attendance: 16,442. Officials: Mike Kitts, Terry Wymer, Zelton Steed.