BLOOMINGTON – After barely beating last-place Northwestern on Wednesday, Indiana coach Archie Miller challenged his team to bring more energy and more focus going forward.
The Hoosiers responded Saturday by picking up their second top-25 victory of the season.
Captain Devonte Green scored 19 points, including 15 in the second half, and sophomore Robert Phinisee added 13 points and seven rebounds in his first start of the season to lead the Hoosiers over No. 11 Ohio State 66-54 at Assembly Hall in front of an announced crowd of 15,456.
“I thought we got our head out of the mud after Wednesday,” Miller said. “We got our attitude, we got our heads together and guys were ready to go today. We had probably as good of a defensive game as we've played.”
Indiana (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) held the Buckeyes (11-5, 1-4), who lost their fourth straight game, to just 33% shooting and grabbed 11 steals against a team that had allowed only five per game coming in.
Four of those steals came from Phinisee, who gave Ohio State fits all afternoon. The Lafayette native, who has battled injuries this season, got the Hoosiers off to a fast start offensively with three 3-pointers in the first 3:20, helping his team jump out to a 13-5 lead.
“He's a warrior,” forward Justin Smith said of Phinisee. “He's stuck with it through the hard times and he was due for one of these games. He came out hot and that really set the tone for the rest of the team.”
Indiana led by as many as nine in the first half, but went ice cold down the stretch, missing its final 13 field goal attempts before halftime. The Buckeyes took advantage, embarking on a 15-1 run to go in front 34-31 at the break.
The second half belonged to Green, however. The senior, who was on the bench when the Hoosiers came back to beat Northwestern, went 4 for 4 after halftime. He made a huge 3-pointer to put the Hoosiers in front 43-42 midway through the half, snapping a 5:20 stretch without an IU field goal.
Later, he knifed through the lane and twisted between three defenders for an acrobatic layup, kicking off a game-turning 13-1 run that left the Hoosiers in front by 11.
“There's nobody in that locker room that (doubts) the necessity he is to our team,” Smith said of Green. “He can do a lot of different things. He can score, pass, defend. I mean, like he's a very, very important part to our team, and we need him in these big games, and he showed up.”
During that big second-half run, Indiana held the Buckeyes without a field goal for 5:54. Ohio State went 0 for 4 from the field and turned the ball over four times during the stretch as Indiana locked in defensively.
The Hoosiers might have enjoyed a more comfortable margin, but they made only 56% of their free throws, finishing 20 for 36 at the line. Still, Miller sounded an optimistic note about his team's trajectory.
“If we're at our best and we're maxing out our stuff, I think this team has a chance to be a really good team,” the coach said. “Especially as we continue to improve defensively. ... We did some good things today. I'm happy for our team.
“Sometimes in this league it just becomes such a slugfest that you need a jolt of energy. We got a good jolt of energy.”
Note: At halftime, the Hoosiers held a Basketball Alumni Day, with dozens of former players, coaches and managers getting recognized at center court. All-American Alan Henderson, who played for the Hoosiers from 1991 to 1995, addressed the crowd and emphasized the importance of fan support at Indiana.