Indiana's 66-54 win over then-No. 11 Ohio State in Bloomington on Jan. 11 was one of the Hoosiers' most important victories of the season to date. It came on the heels of three lackluster performances and helped kick off a stretch of four wins in five games that set the Hoosiers up to be a contender in the Big Ten race.
Now, after back-to-back losses to Maryland and Penn State, the latter a disappointing effort Wednesday in which Indiana turned the ball over 18 times and shot only 10 free throws, the Hoosiers are looking for another get-well victory today over the Buckeyes, this time on the road.
Ohio State could use a victory, as well. The Buckeyes, once ranked No. 2 in the country after an 11-1 start, have lost six of their last eight, with the only wins in that stretch coming over conference bottom-feeders Nebraska and Northwestern.
Still, Ohio State is dangerous. Led by 6-foot-9 junior forward Kaleb Wesson, one of the savviest post players in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes are difficult to deal with in the paint. Indiana held Wesson to just 3-for-11 shooting in the teams' first matchup, but Hoosiers coach Archie Miller is worried because his team has struggled to defend inside recently.
“I don't feel very good right now,” Miller said. “That's one of our big concerns right now is our interior defense. Here recently, especially in our last two games, our interior defense has been nonexistent, and it's resulted in a lot of fouls.
“If you're going to allow the ball in at will, if you're going to allow (Wesson) to operate, he's going to cause a lot of problems. It's a huge concern going into Game 2.”
Miller said he was particularly disappointed that the Hoosiers have allowed their opponents to take more free throws than they have in the last two games. Indiana has lived at the line this season, ranking eighth in the country in foul shot attempts at 24.2 per game. The Hoosiers have taken only 20 combined in their last two contests.
“That's how we want to play, inside-out,” point guard Rob Phinisee said. “I feel like once we draw fouls into the big guys, if we can draw fouls on Wesson, I feel like that'll be a big thing for us tomorrow. Really just try to have an inside-out approach, and I feel like that'll help.”
Both teams could be missing key players today. The Hoosiers' Jerome Hunter was battling an illness and did not play against Penn State, while fellow forward Race Thompson has missed the last two games after taking a hard fall against Michigan State.
It's unclear whether either will be available today.
Ohio State, meanwhile, will be without freshman guard D.J. Carton, the team's third-leading scorer. Carton, who was a Hoosiers target in the 2019 recruiting cycle, posted on social media Friday that he is taking time away from the basketball program to deal with some mental health issues.
“I have been suffering with mental health issues for a couple years,” Carton wrote on Twitter. “I have been through a lot. I'm disappointed to say I'm not 100% right now. I am not doing my teammates justice if I don't work on this now. I am doing everything in my power to strengthen my mental health.”
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann released a statement expressing his support for Carton and calling him a “valued member of our program.”
Indiana at Ohio State
When: Noon today
Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Records: Indiana (15-6, 5-5 Big Ten), Ohio State (13-7, 3-6)
Radio: 1250 AM