COLUMBUS, Ohio – Indiana wasn't physical enough against Ohio State.
Hoosiers coach Archie Miller emphasized that fact repeatedly after his team dropped its third straight game, a 68-59 defeat in front of an announced crowd of 18,809 at Value City Arena on Saturday.
“To me this was a very stand-still game, we were locked to the ground around the rim,” Miller said. “It's a little concerning, but every team's going to go through it and have a chance to write their own story. We're at a time right now where we have to rely on each other and find a way to get ourselves out of (this slump).”
Kaleb Wesson led Ohio State (14-7, 4-6 Big Ten) with 15 points and 11 rebounds, pacing the Buckeyes to their first victory over a team with a winning record since they beat Kentucky on Dec. 21.
Indiana (15-7, 5-6) got a team-high 13 points from Devonte Green, though 10 came in the last six minutes, when the game had already mostly been decided. Rob Phinisee chipped in 11 points and Trayce Jackson-Davis had seven points and seven rebounds.
Indiana's lack of physicality showed up most acutely on the boards, according to Miller. The Hoosiers, who came into the game 11th in the country in average rebounding margin at plus-8.4, got outrebounded 31-24 and did not have any second-chance points after grabbing only four offensive rebounds.
“They imposed their will physically on the boards and that was the difference in the game, especially early,” Miller said. “We could not rebound the ball. It was the first time all season long that I can really recall our team getting housed on the glass like that.
“Just the energy level, getting after balls isn't there right now,” Miller added. “We probably had, I don't know, six or seven 50-50 rebounds that end up going out of bounds that (Ohio State) gets. To me, we're not getting the ball, we're not quick to it right now.”
The Hoosiers themselves heard the coach's message loud and clear. They were also disappointed in the lack of physicality on rebounds and cited that as an area that will receive special attention in their six-day break between games that starts today.
“It was huge,” Phinisee said of the Buckeyes' 8-0 advantage in second-chance points. “That's pretty much our bread and butter, offensive rebounds. Pretty much just want to play harder.”
The Buckeyes led 31-22 at the half after the Hoosiers suffered through a stretch of more than six minutes without a point in the first half. Green beat the halftime buzzer with a 35-foot 3-pointer off the glass to make it a single-digit deficit.
Indiana quickly closed the gap when Phinisee made a 3-pointer, one of his two in the game, and Jackson-Davis drove for a tough layup to make it 33-27 with 18:44 remaining.
That was as close as the Hoosiers would get, however. Ohio State made seven second-half 3-pointers, including three in a row from Kyle Ahrens that turned a 12-point advantage into a 61-42 game with barely six minutes left, all but ending Indiana's chances.
Hoosiers redshirt freshman Jerome Hunter, who grew up barely 20 miles from Value City Arena in Pickerington, Ohio, scored six points in the second half, including a 3-pointer, and finished with nine points and four rebounds.
“I'm from here, so basically I got everybody here,” Hunter said of having family and friends in the crowd.
He went 2 for 4 from beyond the arc and is shooting 53.8% from 3-point range in his last four games.