Coming off of a massive victory over Michigan State just last week, everything was starting to fall in place for the Hoosiers and the team seemed to have elevated their game to the next level. The first 39 minutes of Sunday’s performance against Maryland equally seemed encouraging. But then, that final minute happened. Indiana felt another victory against a top 25 opponent slip through their fingers.

Just a few days later, it was a quick turnaround for IU against yet another quality top 25 opponent in Penn State. Again, Indiana was left with a sour taste after a stagnant performance in a 15 point loss to the Nittany Lions.

What a difference a week makes.

Now, the Hoosiers will head to Columbus this weekend to face another scuffling team. Entering the final third of the regular-season, Ohio State is next in line in the crucible that is the Big Ten. Among news coming out of Columbus, the Buckeyes will be without the services of star freshman point guard DJ Carton, who is taking time away from basketball due to mental health concerns.

How to Watch

WhoIndiana Hoosiers at Ohio State Buckeyes
WhenSaturday Feb. 1, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
WhereSchottenstein Center – Columbus, Ohio
TicketsFind the Lowest Tickets on SeatGeek
WatchESPN
ListenIU Sports Network
StatsLive Stats

Getting to know the Buckeyes

Ohio State currently sits at 13-7 overall and are 3-6 in conference play (11th the Big Ten). After starting 11-1 (with notable non-conference victories over Cincinnati, Villanova, and Kentucky), the Buckeyes have begun to spiral after entering the intense gauntlet of Big Ten play. Despite their struggles, the KenPom rankings have OSU at #13.

Interestingly, another reason for OSU’s current slump is the drastic difference in performance between home and away games. The Buckeyes have only two true-road victories (out of six games) all season. Even more concerning is that these victories came against North Carolina and Northwestern, two teams that have been in dire straits all year long. Thus, staying in Columbus to face Indiana is a welcome relief to the Buckeye faithful.

OSU is ranked in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Offensively, the Buckeyes average 73.1 points per game. The team is ranked 32nd in effective field-goal percentage (53.5%). OSU is quite efficient from beyond the arc with an effective three-point field-goal percentage of 38.2% (17th in the nation). Like Indiana, Ohio State plays at a deliberate pace averaging 17.9 seconds per position (234th overall). Defensively, Ohio State gives up only 61.5 points per game (22nd overall).

Indiana and Ohio State faced off earlier this month with the Hoosiers coming out on top 66-54. Led by Devonte Green’s 19 points and great defensive play, Indiana disrupted Ohio State’s offensive rhythm holding them to just 32.7% from the field.

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Kaleb Wesson, DJ Carton, and Duane Washington Jr. form an impressive trio that fuel Ohio State.

At 6’9″ and 270 lbs, Wesson anchors the post for the Buckeyes. He averages 13.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 44.3% from the field. In the first matchup against Indiana, Wesson posted 11 points and 10 rebounds. Wesson does a lot of his work before he gets the ball. He is great at body positioning and finding a way to gain leverage on a defender, whether it be fronting him or slipping behind him. By the time he receives the ball, he often is already in a scoring position. He has also improved his shooting stroke over the last few years. Now, he can shoot the three, averaging about three attempts from beyond the arc per game. This adds another layer to his effectiveness, allowing him to thrive in pick-and-pop situations.

With Guard DJ Carton, Ohio State is looking to replace a point guard that averaged 10.4 points, 3.0 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. He came off the bench but played starters minutes at 23.9 minutes per game. On the season, Carton has been 40% from three and 47.7% overall from the field. Against Indiana earlier this month, he stayed true to his average, posting 10 points. Like many freshmen, Carton has had a bit of a roller – coaster season filled with inconsistency and perhaps he can be better focused after his return to basketball and the Ohio State team.

Another dynamic guard, Duane Washington Jr., averages 11.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. He is also the team’s second-best three-point shooter at 42.9%. Like Carton (and most of the Ohio State team), Washington has had several ups-and-downs throughout the season. But, if he is on, Ohio State is increasingly more dangerous.

Another player of note is Kyle Young who tends to be OSU’s x-factor. Contributing 7.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, Young provides important support in the post. He has dealt with some injuries this season and the team looked noticeably different when he wasn’t fully healthy

Projected Starting Lineups

Indiana HoosiersOhio State Buckeyes
G: #1 Al Durham (Jr.)G: #13 CJ Walker (Jr.)
G: #10 Rob Phinisee (So.)G: #1 Lester Mohammad (So.)
F: #3 Justin Smith (Jr.)F: #24 Andre Wesson (Sr.)
F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis (Fr.)F: #25 Kyle Young (Jr.)
C: #50 Joey Brunk (RS Jr.)C: #34 Kaleb Wesson (Jr.)

What to Watch for

1. Ohio State without DJ Carton

The biggest news of the week was Ohio State losing DJ Carton for this matchup. Archie Miller in his Ohio State preview discussed that the loss of DJ Carton is unfortunate and he wishes well for Carton and his family, but it does not change how Indiana plans to match up against the Buckeyes. In his place, junior CJ Walker is going to be an important contributor for the Buckeyes at home.

2. Hitting the Boards

Despite Ohio State’s size, the Buckeyes are a below-average average rebounding team. OSU ranks 144th in the nation in total rebounding and have only two players who average over five rebounds per game. Comparatively, Indiana ranks 36th in rebounding.

In their most impressive victories of the season, IU dominated the glass. The Hoosiers outrebounded then-No. 17 Florida State by 10 and then-No. 11 Michigan State by 2. Indiana also controlled the boards in their one-point loss to No. 17 Maryland last weekend and was a large reason why IU almost pulled off the upset.

In the first matchup between these teams, the rebounding numbers were almost identical with Ohio State having one more rebound than Indiana, 36 to 35. With each team taking a team-oriented and patient approach to offense, rebounding is essential to both team’s gameplan as each wants to secure extra possessions.

3. Brunk v. Wesson

One of the more intriguing matchups this weekend will be the battle in the post between Joey Brunk and Kaleb Wesson. These two players certainly have different roles. Brunk is a complementary player averaging 8.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. On the other hand, Wesson is the heart of Ohio State’s attack as the team’s leading scorer and leading rebounder (13.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG). Yet, Brunk’s recent form may be crucial to helping Indiana neutralize Wesson.

Brunk has come on strong of late and appears to be growing with confidence as the season progresses. Prior to struggling against Maryland (only 6 points), Brunk had 16 points against Nebraska on 7 of 8 attempts and 14 points against Michigan State on 7 of 12 shooting. Similarly, from the Christmas break through the beginning of January, he also had a stretch of four games with double-digit rebounds. While Indiana has a team approach to post play with several capable options all contributing, Brunk’s recent surge in production has added another element to Indiana’s offense by taking the pressure off perimeter players and Jackson-Davis. If he can be productive against OSU, he can help swing momentum in Indiana’s favor. 

4. Closing Time

Both teams suffer from bouts of inconsistency. Whether it’s starting slowly or struggling to close out a game, OSU and Indiana rarely put together a complete start-to-finish performance. As the season dwindles, conference victories are becoming more and more important for both teams. Which squad will be able to find a way to close games and win during crunch time?

5. Limiting Live-Ball Turnovers

Both teams frequently turn the ball over. Wednesday’s 18 turnovers for Indiana may seem high, but the Hoosiers have struggled with ball security all season. In fact, through 21 games they have 280 turnovers and sit 198th in the country in turnovers. Indiana has the exact same amount of turnovers as they do assists. Ohio State is in the same boat, sitting at 172nd with 273 turnovers in 20 games.


Featured Photo: Sun-Sentinel

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