Indiana is going through a rough patch. The Hoosiers know it, coach Archie Miller knows it, everyone knows it. A 62-60 win over last-place Northwestern at Assembly Hall on Wednesday did little to change the situation, coming on the heels of consecutive losses to Arkansas and Maryland.
“We've got to punch through this wall right now,” Miller said. “We're struggling through a little bit of a rut and we've got to punch through that wall, and I'll say if you're not ready to go on Saturday, that's a problem.”
The Hoosiers have a golden opportunity today to get their season back on track as they welcome No. 11 Ohio State to Assembly Hall. Miller called the Buckeyes a “Final Four-caliber” team and lauded big man Kaleb Wesson, who leads OSU in scoring and rebounding, as the nation's “premier physical low-post presence.”
Pulling an upset on national TV against one of the conference's top teams would be a good way for the Hoosiers to break out of their rut.
“(Our intensity in practice) has picked up a little bit,” guard Rob Phinisee said. “But besides that, I feel like we just have to come out (Saturday) and play with energy from the go, and just play 40 minutes like that.”
The Hoosiers lacked energy at times against Northwestern and fell behind by 10 in the second half before rallying for the victory.
After the game and again Friday, Miller talked about shortening the rotation. He has often pointed to his team's ability to go 11-deep with quality players as a source of strength, but he mused after the win over the Wildcats that a shorter rotation might boost the Hoosiers' effort level.
“It may be a different group (today),” Miller said. “Hopefully we do have a group that plays well together and we'll play with it. But I expect everybody on our team to have a good mindset.
“We had a good mindset (Friday) in practice; we had good talks (Friday) morning, and the fact that we won the game on Wednesday night the way we won it obviously shows that there's some pride in this group. And we just got to figure out how to play more consistent basketball.”
Miller has been pushing the team's leaders such as Devonte Green and Al Durham to motivate some of the underclassmen and help keep their confidence high. He has recently emphasized the importance of being mentally in the game.
“I think you got to have a real, real sense of awareness right now about how important your minds are, how important the commitment level is to what we're doing,” the coach said. “You can't have one guy sort of off kilter because if he gets in the game and he's not ready, things can change in a blink playing these really good teams.”
The Hoosiers will be facing a team trying to snap out of its own funk. The Buckeyes started the season 11-1 with wins over North Carolina, Villanova and Kentucky that helped them climb as high as No. 2 in the national rankings.
Since then, however, they've lost three in a row and not scored more than 59 points in any of those games.
The Buckeyes are 29th in the country in 3-point shooting at 38% but are hitting just 26.7% in the last three games.
Ohio State might be down one of its more important contributors as junior forward Kyle Young is dealing with an appendix issue. The 6-foot-8 Young hasn't played since Dec. 29 against West Virginia and is averaging 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds this season.
Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said Friday that Young would be a game-time decision.
vs. Ohio State
When: Noon today
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
Records: Indiana (12-3, 2-2 Big Ten), No. 11 Ohio State (11-4, 1-3)
Radio: 1250 AM