Indiana 81, Ohio State 68: Hoosiers bounce back from Illini loss with best road win in years.

USA TODAY Sports

After what could have been a devastating loss to Illinois, the Hoosiers bounced back in what may have been their most impressive performance of the season.

First, let me thank Devin and Austan for carrying the load while I have been on vacation of the last week or so. You would be forgiven for not noticing that I was gone, as they have done an excellent job here during a very busy time both for the basketball program and for football as well. In a related matter, I apologize for the 24 hour lag between the end of the game and the wrapup post, which was mine to cover.

I did stop by in the comments section over the weekend and noted that as a fan it's very difficult to get past collapses such as the one against Illinois. I still dwell on last year's Nebraska loss, and even the loss to Minnesota in 2000. It's one thing to lose a game when it isn't your day, and quite another to lose when it was your day for the first 35 minutes of the game. I always assume, perhaps erroneously, that if it bothers me as a fan it must bother players and coaches quite a bit more. Whether the Hoosiers were able to move past the Illinois loss or were incredibly motivated by the loss, obviously it worked. IU defeated a top ten team on the road for the first time since beating Notre Dame in December 2000, and first against a Big Ten team since winning at Iowa in 1993. While the loss to Illinois may yet cost IU an outright Big Ten title or a share of the title, the win kept IU in the lead in the loss column as the only two loss team other than Michigan State.

There was nothing flukish about the Hoosiers' first win in Columbus since 2008. IU took the lead for good with 7 minutes remaining the first half and the Buckeyes were never closer than four points (and then only briefly) in the second half. While IU's defense was fine, the efficiency of the offense is what really stood out. IU shot 53 percent from the field, including 58 percent in the second half, and turned the ball over only ten times (15.1 percent, the third best total of the Big Ten season so far).

Individual notes:

  • Victor Oladipo continued to make a case for himself as a national player of the year contender with an amazingly efficient performance: 26 points on 8-10 from the field and 9-10 from the line. He tied Cody Zeller for a team-high 8 rebounds, and had two of IU's three steals.
  • Cody Zeller was 8-11 from the field and from the line and had 8 boards and finished with 24 points.
  • Christian Watford had 20 points on 6-11/4-5/4-4.
  • While IU's scoring is typically balanced, the three players listed above accounted for all but 13 of IU's points.
A couple of weeks ago, everyone recognized that the then-upcoming five game stretch was going to be defining for this team: Michigan State, @ Purdue, Michigan, @ Illinois, @ Ohio State. I don't know that any IU fan was greedy enough to hope for 5-0 during that stretch, and coming through the gauntlet with a 4-1 record and one last-second loss is a fairly good outcome. Now, the Hoosiers have a two game homestand against Nebraska (Wednesday) and Purdue (Saturday). Neither the Cornhuskers nor the Boilermakers are likely to qualify for the postseason, but it's dangerous to think that any Big Ten game will be a walk. The Purdue game, in particular, will be against a motivated opponent that will be seeking some measure of revenge for the worst home loss in program history. Still, by far the most likely outcome is that the Hoosiers will survive the week and then will enter a crucial two game stretch with road games against Michigan State and Minnesota.

Finally, despite the Illinois loss, IU held on to the top spot in today's AP poll, although Duke moved up to #1 in the Coaches' Poll.
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