In a pivotal game for Indiana, the Hoosiers found themselves playing out the same script as usual.
After a dominating start to the first half, Indiana held an 18-point lead with 32:52 left in the game. This stemmed as a result of calculated passing and lights out shooting. From there, the Hoosiers fulfilled the expectations of most, as their shooting dissipated along with their lead.
With 11:37 remaining in the game, and facing a one-point deficit, Indiana could have told the same old story. Thanks to the resiliency of its starters, Indiana flipped the script like M. Night Shyamalan, and pulled away with a 96-92 win over Ohio State in Columbus.
“It was much improved, and I think we’ll see that the film is much improved,” said Coach Tom Crean.
When looking at the way in which the Hoosiers pulled off the victory, nothing stands out more than the performance of the starting lineup. Indiana scored 96 points in today's outing and 93 of those points came from its starting lineup.
Every starter ended the day with double-digit scoring, as the only player off the bench to find the bottom of the net was Devonte Green in the first minute of the second half.
“There’s a lot of different ways for us to win, and that just ended up being the way it ended up today,” said Crean.
The most impressive output on the day came from Robert Johnson, who scored 26 points while also grabbing six assists, six rebounds and two steals.
Along with Johnson, another Hoosier standout was Josh Newkirk, whose ability to penetrate to the lane helped the Hoosiers space the floor and find open shots. Newkirk ended the game shooting 60 percent from the field, putting up 18 points along with five assists.
The team as a whole shot the ball incredibly well as the Hoosiers made 59 percent of their shots and went 12-for-23 from beyond the arc.
This impressive shooting started from the very beginning, as Indiana opened the game on an 11-0 run with three made baskets from the outside.
Indiana continued to shoot the ball from the onset, as the Hoosiers made seven of their first eight field goal attempts.
Thanks to effective inside-out basketball, the Hoosiers went on another run with 15:37 remaining in the first half. Indiana scored eight straight point and found itself up 25-8 with 14:30 remaining in the half.
“They were excellent this morning,” said Crean. “They were so revved up at 8:15 this morning...a lot of life, and they played like that.”
The key the Hoosiers early success was effective ball movement, as Indiana didn’t have a single turnover until De’Ron Davis lost the ball at the 14-minute mark in the first half.
This remained a theme for Indiana, as the Hoosiers ended the night with 18 assists and only 12 turnovers.
“It’s a game of concentration,” said Crean. “Bob Knight said it, victory favors the team that makes fewest mistakes. Maybe I’m paraphrasing, but it’s a short space quickness game, it’s a concentration game.”
Consistent shooting had the Hoosiers up by 18 points with 12 minutes remaining in the half. With that said, the most basic mathematician could tell you that relative percentages equal out to the mean after increased usage. To that they did, as 18 points would be the largest lead that Indiana would hold on the day.
For the rest of the half, Ohio State meddled there way back to make the game somewhat closer halftime. Indiana entered the locker room up 54-40, with 20 eventful minutes remaining.
Robert Johnson led the way in the first half with 15 points, shooting six for nine from the field.
James Blackmon Jr. added another 10, as the Hoosiers shot 64.7% for the half and scored 1.5 points per possession.
Then in the second half, the story shifted.
Early foul trouble, regression back to the mean and a weak zone defense allowed Ohio State to shoot prolifically in the the start of the second half.
James Blackmon Jr. picked up his third foul of the game within the first minute of the half and Juwan Morgan had already accumulated three fouls in the first half.
With the two of them off the the floor, Ohio State quickly burst out for a 10-0 run.
After Trevor Thompson scored five of the 10 points on that run, Ohio State found itself only down four points with 16 minutes remaining.
“A couple times we certainly didn’t handle the ball screens with the force we need,” said Crean.
The key for Ohio State in the second half was their ability to spread the load, as four players scored over 15 points.
Indiana struggled to penetrate to the lane early in the second half, and Ohio State went on another run to grab a 62-61 point lead with over 11 minutes remaining.
The difference between Indiana’s first half start and its second half start was quite out of the ordinary as Indiana scored 34 points in the first 10 minutes of the game and just seven points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
With the game about to leave the Hoosiers grasp, Indiana needed someone to lift its energy. To the surprise of many, walk-on Zach McRoberts seemed to be that someone.
Two minutes after Indiana had lost the lead, McRoberts established low-post position and grabbed an offensive rebound. He then sent that rebound to the perimeter for a three-point shot.
Two possession later, McRoberts made his influence again, kicking the ball to Robert Johnson for an open three point shot.
Before you knew it, McRoberts had sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Hoosiers a 74 to 64 lead with seven minutes remaining.
“I’m proud of the way they played,” said Crean. “We weathered some storms. We were down one, 61 to 62, and we answered with seven straight scores. Those kinds of things are very important for us.”
Although McRoberts didn’t score any points on the day, he did grab two rebounds and add three assists.
From then on, Robert Johnson had found his shooting stroke again, knocking down two late jumpers. After that, it seemed to simply be smooth sailing for the Hoosiers and as they pulled away with the 96-92 point victory.