Preview: #2 Ohio State at #15 Indiana

By Joe Beale on December 31, 2011 at 8:13a
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)Watford rang up 26 against Sparty on Wedns.
Ohio State Buckeyes #2 Ohio State 13-1, 1-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 6:00 PM ET - ESPN2 —— Assembly Hall Bloomington, IN Indiana Hoosiers #15 Indiana 12-1, 0-1 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

Assembly Hall. The place where Ohio State hoop dreams are traditionally squashed by a well-disciplined team running endless cuts and screens. Or at least that's how it was back when IU was coached by the guy in the ugly sportcoat. Ohio State managed to get only 3 wins in the first 29 years of playing there, but in the 12 seasons since "The General" (sorry for that) was terminated as head coach, the Buckeyes have won 5 times there including 3 straight.

Tonight OSU travels to Bloomington to play Indiana at Assembly Hall on New Years Eve just like they did last season, and they will be hoping for similar results. A year ago, the Buckeyes shot the lights out on their way to an 85-67 blowout win despite not making a field goal in the last 8 minutes of the game. They hit 13 of 19 3-pointers on that night, and shot over 60 percent overall. 

They will be playing a much-improved IU squad this time around. The Hoosiers began the season by winning 12 straight, punctuated by a home win over then #1 Kentucky, the only loss for the Wildcats so far this season. But the winning streak ended on Wednesday night in East Lansing as Indiana fell to the Spartans 80-65

4 A. Craft SO 6-2/190 7.8 2.9 5.4 G 1 J. Hulls JR 6-0/175 11.5 2.5 3.7
32 L. Smith Jr. SO 6-4/205 4.8 4.9 2.2 G 12 V. Jones III SR 6-5/185 8.6 3.0 3.5
44 W. Buford SR 6-6/220 16.6 4.3 3.6 F 4 V. Oladipo SO 6-5/210 12.0 5.4 1.8
1 D. Thomas SO 6-7/225 15.9 4.1 0.9 F 2 C. Watford JR 6-9/230 13.2 5.5 1.2
0 J. Sullinger SO 6-9/280 16.3 9.6 1.2 C 40 C. Zeller FR 6-11/220 14.2 6.9 1.1


What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I wrote:  

It seems extremely unlikely that Ohio State could trip up against a team like Indiana

This time around, OSU faces a more seasoned and confident IU team. Ever since he hit the game-winning 3-pointer against Kentucky, junior forward Christian Watford has been on a roll, averaging 16 points per game and hitting 13 of 21 from distance. For the season, Watford is hitting over 50% of his shots from beyond the arc, and so Buckeye defenders need to make sure they know where he is at all times. 

Watford is not the only 3-point threat on the team, as starting PG Jordan Hulls and reserve guard Matt Roth are also both hitting over 50% from distance with more than 40 attempts for each. Indiana is a high-scoring team, ranking 8th in the country in that category, but most of it comes from the perimeter. Their sole inside threat is freshman center Cody Zeller, the brother of UNC center Tyler Zeller. The younger Zeller is averaging over 14 points per game overall, but he looked lost against a very physical Michigan State team and could be in for a rough ride in Big Ten play. 

Indiana is not a physical team, but they will try to force the tempo up and get you out of position to defend the perimeter. Expect to get lots of scoring attempts against IU, as they not only score quickly but they are not a proficient rebounding team. This could be fatal against an Ohio State team that hits the offensive glass pretty hard. The Hoosiers are an excellent free throw shooting team and they go to the line quite a bit. They have made as many free throws as their opponents have attempted. 

IU leads the overall series 99-74 but the Buckeyes have won the last 6; Tom Crean has yet to defeat OSU during his tenure as Indiana head coach. This is slightly ironic, since Crean was one of the leading candidates to replace Jim O'Brien before Thad Matta was hired. Crean is in his 4th season at IU and has an overall record of 40-67, as he continues to rebuild the program after the disasterous tenure of Kelvin Sampson. Expect to see a well-schooled team that moves the ball around a lot and shoots well from all over the floor.  

Buckeye Breakdown:

Ohio State is on a roll after crushing Northwestern on Wednesday in their Big Ten opener. William Buford made 5/7 from distance and 9/14 overall as he scored a career high 28 points in the win. Jared Sullinger got back on track with 17 points of his own to go with 14 rebounds in only 22 minutes of playing time. In the 12 games that Sullinger has played, OSU is 12-0 with 10 of those wins coming by 14 points or more. 

Photo: Terry Gilliam / APCraft can make a big difference tonight.

Sully will be a focal point for the Buckeyes as they attempt to use their size to exploit Indiana's softness in the middle. Cody Zeller is a fine prospect but is still growing into the role of playing center at the college level. At only 220 pounds, he will have his hands full trying to keep Sullinger out of the post. 

Another key to the game for OSU will be the play of their guards, particularly on defense. This is where Aaron Craft will be invaluable. The sophomore PG is averaging nearly 3 steals per game but will be challenged going against a team with lots of great ball-handlers. Jordan Hulls is not only a distributor for IU's offense, he is also a major threat from beyond the arc and so Craft will need to stay on him and resist the urge to double down on Zeller.

Since IU is mostly a perimeter team, I don't expect to see Ohio State get in foul trouble. They will need to play fast, but if they do they will give the Hoosiers a lot of trouble with their length out front. Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Buford have been outstanding in perimeter defense this season and will need to continue that excellent play tonight.

I also expect a renewed effort from Deshaun Thomas, especially on offense. This will be his second trip back to his home state, and he will once again want to step it up for the Indiana faithful. Thomas has been a beast on the offensive boards lately, and he should have plenty of opportunities tonight against a poor rebounding IU team. 


  • Ohio State is 17-5 all-time in games played on New Year's Eve, including wins in 5 of their last 6 and 2/3 in Big Ten play.
  • OSU's current 6-game winning streak against the Hoosiers is their longest ever in the series. 
  • Buford is averaging almost 21 points per game against ranked opponents.
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