Indiana guard Romeo Langford led Indiana with 15 points in a 55-52 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 10. The Hoosiers get another shot at the Buckeyes today in the Big Ten Tournament, a must-win game for both teams. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Thursday, March 14, 2019 1:00 am
Hoosiers ignoring outside noise
Win over Ohio State could mean spot in NCAA field
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
Big Ten Tournament
Indiana vs. Ohio State
Where: United Center, Chicago
When: 12:30 p.m. today
Records: Indiana (17-14), Ohio State (18-13)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM, 102.9 FM
CHICAGO – On Tuesday night, Joe Lunardi, ESPN's NCAA Tournament bracket expert, logged on Twitter and began answering a string of fan questions about the potential field of 68.
One question came from an Ohio State fan. “Is IU/OSU still a play-in game?”
“For me it is ...,” Lunardi responded.
Such are the stakes when ninth-seeded Indiana and eighth-seeded Ohio State meet this afternoon in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the winner will be on the right side of the bubble.
Neither team is guaranteed a spot even with a win, but considering the proximity of both to the bubble, there might be more riding on this matchup than any other in the tournament.
Despite the stakes, the Hoosiers are just trying to stay in the moment.
“We hear people talking and (the bracket) is all over social media,” center De'Ron Davis said. “But we don't really pay attention to it. We just focus on what we've got to focus on and the next game and each war.
“Coach is just focused on the game plan and what we've got to do to beat Ohio State. That's all, really.”
The Hoosiers (17-14) and Buckeyes (18-13) met once this season, a hard-fought game Feb. 10 at Assembly Hall in which Romeo Langford saw a potential game-winning 3-pointer roll around and out with 12 seconds left. Indiana fell 55-52, its ninth loss in 10 games.
The differences are stark between Indiana's current team and the one that lost to the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers seem to have found a groove, averaging 90.5 points on 54 percent shooting in their last two games, while turning the ball over just 13 times total.
The Hoosiers have been moving the ball, taking good shots and playing aggressively.
Coach Archie Miller has been emphasizing for several weeks how much the team's attitude has changed.
“We have a good vibe about us right now that they want to be in the gym and that's really important in March,” Miller said. “We have a group of guys that want to be around each other, that want to be in the gym, usually good things will happen and I think that's sort of how this team has operated here in the last four weeks.”
Ohio State has gone the other way in that same stretch. Ranked as high as No. 13 in December, the Buckeyes dropped six of their final eight games, including the last three.
In those final three games, Ohio State was without sophomore big man Kaleb Wesson, the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Wesson was suspended for an unspecified violation of athletic department policy but will return to face the Hoosiers.
The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Wesson is a load inside, averaging 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds. He's prone to foul trouble, however, and Indiana could render him relatively ineffective if it attacks him off the dribble.
With Wesson back and both teams at full strength, expect the coaches to treat this like a must-win game.
“It starts with one game, and however you want to look at this one game, it is a championship-type game for us,” Miller said. “When you are able to win a game in a tournament and advance to the next round and you're watching the night games as you prepare for the next game, it's an unbelievable feeling for the players.
“If you are able to advance multiple times, it becomes something special.”