Basketball Preview: Ohio State Will Need First Win At Assembly Hall in Four Seasons to Halt Hoosier Hot Streak in Indiana

By Griffin Strom on January 28, 2023 at 8:35 am
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Zed Key
Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State and Indiana are trending in opposite directions.

Indiana (14-6, 5-4 B1G) Assembly Hall 8 p.m. FOX

The Buckeyes have lost six of their last seven as they’ve sunk to 12th place in the Big Ten. They now sit just two games above .500. Indiana suffered a three-game skid to start January but has subsequently turned things around to rattle off four straight wins as Trayce Jackson-Davis has seemingly taken his game to new heights.

On the heels of an underwhelming performance in Tuesday’s nine-point loss at Illinois, the Buckeyes have the misfortune of following it up with another road trip, and this time to an arena in which they haven’t won since the 2018-19 season.

“We actually had a much better day of practice yesterday, and I think there had to be some – and there's been – some very honest and real conversations that have continued to have to take place,” Ohio State assistant coach Jake Diebler said Friday. “And our guys were made aware that the way we played, it wasn't so much about how the game ended, but the way we played throughout the course of that game was not acceptable. It was not a good representation of, certainly what this team is capable of, but what we're about as a program. And so that had to be brought to light. And our guys responded well yesterday, and we have see that consistently.”

Mike Woodson returned 77.2% of the minutes played and 83.6% of the scoring production from his first Indiana roster, and the Hoosiers were a top-20 team until their struggles started at the beginning of the month. If you’re not impressed by their four-point win over a hamstrung Minnesota team on Wednesday, the back-to-back-to-back blowout victories they strung together before that (Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State) should be convincing.

Ohio State will try to halt that hot streak on Saturday, but it will take a more inspired effort than the ones it’s put forth for most of the month.

Need to Know

Bucks need to win the rebounding battle

Even with Zed Key on the floor on Tuesday, the Buckeyes were dominated on the glass. Ohio State was outrebounded by 14, tying its largest deficit of the season, and that’s been a growing trend for the Buckeyes as of late. Ohio State’s been outrebounded in four of its past seven games, and it’s lost all four of those games.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Indiana is one of the best rebounding teams in the conference. The Hoosiers have the third-best rebounding margin in the Big Ten (5.2), and it leads the conference in average defensive rebounds (28.1). Indiana’s won the battle on the boards in each of its past six games, with four wins in that stretch.

Big Ten’s most efficient shooting team

Even after shooting below 40% from the field in four of its past five games, Ohio State ranks second in the conference with its 46.8% clip for the season. Only one team shoots a better percentage, and that’s Indiana. Hitting 50.3% of their shots this year, the Hoosiers are the lone team in the conference shooting at or above 50%. Of the 12 players that have scored a point for the Hoosiers this season, seven have hit at least half of their shot attempts. Much of that is due to Indiana’s emphasis on getting looks from inside the 3-point line. Indiana’s taken the fewest amount of 3-pointers in the conference by a wide margin, but it also shoots the third-best percentage from behind the line.

Block party

Ohio State could use some easy buckets to get into an offensive rhythm early in one of the most hostile environments in college basketball. Especially given its string of sub-40% shooting performances in January. But not much comes easy against the Hoosiers, who rank among the top 10 teams in the nation in blocked shots per game. Indiana averages 5.9 per game, second only to Illinois in the Big Ten, and is coming off a performance in which it turned back 10 shots against Minnesota on Wednesday. And that wasn’t even a season-high mark for the Hoosiers.

Ohio State didn’t have more than five of its shots blocked in a single game before Jan. 12, but since then, three of its past five opponents have finished with at least six blocks against the Buckeyes.

Three Important Buckeyes

Zed Key

Key logged 23 minutes against Illinois after suffering a knee injury at the end of the previous game but finished with an underwhelming performance. Key scored eight points on 2-for-8 shooting and fouled out with five minutes to go in Champaign. But the most damning statistic is that Key pulled down only three rebounds in a game that saw the Buckeyes get waxed on the glass. Key will have to be better for the Buckeyes in a matchup with Jackson-Davis and the Hoosiers.

“Zed's banged up, and he's dealing with some injuries, and I think that's absolutely affected his efficiency. Kind of look over the course of his career, I don't know that he's quite ever gone through a stretch like he has recently,” Diebler said. “I think he deserves a ton of credit because he's a tough kid. And he's worked really, really hard to get back as quickly as he could. I think it's only a matter of time before he gets back to being the Zed that we know we can be.”

Felix Okpara

Should Key get into foul trouble while matching up with the quicker and more agile Jackson-Davis, Okpara could see an uptick in minutes for Ohio State. In last year’s game in Assembly Hall, Key only played 15 minutes while Jackson-Davis put up 27 points and 12 boards in a blowout win. That result suggests Ohio State will try and throw multiple bodies at Jackson-Davis, and Okpara may be the go-to alternate.

However, Okpara was seen leaving the Illinois game in a walking boot, which may mean he’s not at 100% on Saturday. Diebler said Okpara's been in practice in the leadup to Saturday's game, though, which is a positive sign for the Buckeyes.

Brice Sensabaugh

Sensabugh led the Buckeyes in scoring for the 11th straight game on Tuesday, but it was his quietest offensive performance in nearly two months. Sensabugh scored just 14 points, which was a significant departure from the 20.6 he averaged in the previous 10 games. Given that the Buckeyes struggled to score on an off night from the true freshman, it’s all the more important that Sensabaugh bounce back against the Hoosiers.

Three Important Hoosiers

Trayce Jackson-Davis

Player Position Height Weight  Season Stats
TREY GALLOWAY G 6-4 210 7.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG
MILLER KOPP F 6-7 215 8.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG
RACE THOMPSON F 6-8 228 7.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG

The former All-American and first-team All-Big Ten forward enters Saturday’s contest playing some of the best basketball of his career. Averaging 19.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in his third season, Jackon-Davis has been even better over the past few games. In the last three, Jackson-Davis averaged 30.3 points, 15 rebounds and 3.7 assists, and he blocked 4.7 shots per game in that same stretch. Jackson-Davis is coming off a Wednesday night performance in which he scored 25 points, pulled down 21 boards and had six blocks against Minnesota, and a similar effort on Saturday could mean bad news for the Buckeyes.

"He's been on quite a stretch. And I think his impact on both sides of the ball just has continued to get better throughout the course of his career," Diebler said. "And he's had a long career there, and I think when you take a really, really talented player who has an opportunity to grow and progress over an extended period of time, this is what you can get."

Jalen Hood-Schifino

Ohio State won’t be the only team with a stellar freshman in this matchup. A five-star prospect in the 2022 class, 6-foot-6 guard Jalen Hood-Schifino is the Hoosiers’ second-leading scorer with an average of 12.1 points on 42.4% shooting. Hood-Schifino is second on the team with an average of 4.4 assists, and he’s pulling down 4.3 rebounds per game for the Hoosiers as well. He’s only scored eight points combined in his past two performances, but in the nine games before that, he averaged 16.8 a night while hitting 52.9% of his 3-point attempts.

Miller Kopp

A second-year Hoosier after three seasons with Northwestern, Kopp’s numbers have improved dramatically from a year ago. The sharpshooting forward averaged just six points per game on 35.6% from the field and 36.1% from the 3-point line in 2021-22. This season, he’s up to 8.2 points while knocking down 50% of his shots and 45% of his 3-pointers. Kopp’s started every game for the Hoosiers thus far and will be a threat to stretch the floor on Saturday.

How it Plays Out

Line: Indiana -3.5, O/U: 145.5

Ohio State hasn’t won a game at Assembly Hall in four years, and given how well Jackson-Davis and company have been playing in recent weeks, it will be tough for the Buckeyes to break that streak on Saturday.

Prediction: Indiana 72, Ohio State 67

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