What happened? That’s the question being asked by many in Columbus and inside the Ohio State locker room. It seemed as if all was well after a lull in January.
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Five losses in six games followed 15 consecutive wins. But then the Buckeyes won six of seven, patching up its resume and reputation. How quickly that’s all been forgotten. Losses at Penn State and Indiana have put Ohio State back in the crosshairs of critics.
Sunday’s 72-64 defeat to the Hoosiers dropped the Buckeyes to 9-8 in the Big Ten and out of fourth place in the standings. The top 4 receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Ohio State is now sixth, behind Nebraska and Iowa.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross led the 22nd-ranked Buckeyes (22-8, 9-8 Big Ten) with 19 points apiece. No other Ohio State player reached double figures. Aaron Craft tied the Big Ten career steals record, but finished just 2 of 11 from the field with three turnovers, six rebounds and four assists.
Indiana’s now beaten three ranked teams at home this season.
In the age of one-and-done phenoms, a missing freshman can make a significant impact on a game’s outcome. Indiana (17-12, 7-9) learned that Sunday afternoon in the beginning stages of its must-win contest against the Buckeyes.
The Hoosiers are approaching the NCAA Tournament bubble with a late-season surge, while the Buckeyes are once again mired in a slump. But without its first-year sensation Noah Vonleh, the Big Ten’s leading rebounder and a projected NBA lottery pick, Indiana’s chances seemed to diminish greatly before the opening tip.
It looked justified when Ohio State roared out to an eight-point lead in the first 10 minutes. The Buckeyes got the ball inside where Amir Williams didn’t have to worry about Vonleh and created offense off four Indiana turnovers in the opening four minutes.
The turning point came on a harmless missed shot and rebound midway through the first half. LaQuinton Ross and Austin Etheridge became tangled up going for the ball when Ross shoved Etheridge, drawing a technical foul. Ross sat the rest of the first half – a little more than four minutes – which coincided with a 21-5 run.
Ohio State converted two of eight field goal attempts, one of seven free throws and had three turnovers during the spurt. Indiana scored 16 straight points and led 33-25 at the half.
Williams and Trey McDonald were both on the bench with two fouls as well, nullifying any advantage Ohio State obtained with Vonleh’s absence.
The Buckeyes never led or tied the game in the second half. They pulled to within two on two occasions, but never scored the tying basket. Ohio State turned the ball over 14 times.
Ohio State did not make a 3-point field goal against Indiana, going 0-11 from downtown.
The last time the Buckeyes failed to make a three in a game was Jan. 10, 2004, or 367 games ago.
Yogi Ferrell paced Indiana with 20 points, while Will Sheehey contributed 19.
Ohio State missed all 11 of its three-point attempts, the first time since January 2004 that the Buckeyes failed to make a 3, a span of 367 games. The Buckeyes were 14 of 23 from the free throw line. They had 14 total points from the three-pointers and free throws compared to 38 for the Hoosiers. Ohio State shot 42.4 percent from the field. But it had three prolonged field goal droughts totaling more than 12 minutes.
Offense was at a premium early. The teams started the game a combined 1-of-8 shooting from the field. Ohio State comically lost possession of the ball on the opening tip even though Williams had a sizable height advantage over Sheehey. Williams batted the ball over Craft’s head out of bounds. Two airballs and a missed dunk followed.
The Buckeyes missed more than 10 shots from point-blank range.
The loss is the second in a row for the Buckeyes, both coming on the road. They close out the regular season next Sunday against Michigan State on Senior Day at Value City Arena.