For the second straight game, the Hoosiers fell behind right from the start, trailing 9-2 less than six minutes in. The teams wrestled to control the tempo. That's something Tom Crean mentioned pregame, discussing how important it is to do against Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft.
“He is one of those rare people that can set the pace for his team and is good at trying to set the pace for the other team,” Crean said. “When we didn't let him set the pace over there last year, we won. When we let him set the pace here last year, we lost.”
Here are four other key observations from the first half:
1. Troy Williams' strong playmaking. The enigmatic and raw freshman came out firing from all cylinders, shooting 2-for-2 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line in the first half, mostly on cuts off the ball. On the second possession, he also had a surprisingly nice find, just his 25th assist, to Austin Etherington for a score at the basket. He did, however, finish the period by fouling Craft on a drive with 3.8 seconds left.
2. Hoosiers' surge in middle of half. With Noah Vonleh sidelined by left foot inflammation, Jeremy Hollowell started at center and the team has been better with him on the floor than Hanner Mosquera-Perea or Devin Davis. The Hoosiers went on a 7-2 run when Hollowell went to the bench. But it didn't last. Davis tried a series of offensive maneuvers out of rhythm and the Hoosiers allowed the Buckeyes to score quickly in transition. Indiana fell behind 20-12. The Hollowell effect? Soon after he checked back in with 7:54 remaining, he attacked the paint and made two free throws, and Indiana got red-hot. On a 16-0 run, the Hoosiers found the offensive balance they need rather than simply giving it to Yogi Ferrell to create. That easily could have happened without Vonleh in the lineup. But four Hoosiers scored on the run. The Buckeyes are 0-for-6 from downtown, and they only have three assists. The Hoosiers have eight.
3. Yogi is Yogi. Not only did he have a strong first half defensively, he was also a key on offense with his 3-point shooting and attacking. The Buckeyes checked him with a great defender, but he finished the first half with 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. The great thing about the Hoosiers' offense is that Crean didn't run his Vonleh-less offensive sets strictly through Ferrell pick-and-rolls, which is a dangerous tendency against a D as good as Ohio State's. The Hoosiers started with the ball in Ferrell's hands, but unselfish play and ball movement enabled both Ferrell and others to find more open shots.
4. Smith's leak-outs. Ohio State shooting guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. had three in the first half, drawing a foul on Etherington and scoring twice more. The Buckeyes couldn't hit diddly squat in the half, so the cheap points came in handy. Smith finished the first half with nine points, the only Buckeye to do much offensively.