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Timid play, hot Smith problems for Hoosiers, 80-63

Coach Tom Crean spent almost an hour talking to his team after No. 7 Indiana's 80-63 loss at fifth-ranked Ohio State on Sunday.

The coming weeks will reveal whether the Hoosiers were listening.

Crean and his staff elected to have the defense play off of Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. and it cost them dearly, with a player averaging 5.2 points a game lighting them up for a career-high 28.

But it was also much more than just that. So Crean closed the locker room door and talked at length to the Hoosiers (15-3, 3-3 Big Ten), who have dropped two in a row.

"They've never been here before, this group," he said. "We've got some guys who have won at different levels, but they have not won as a team. There's a lot of peaks and valleys in life, let alone athletics, and there's ebbs and flows to the season. Right now we just have to make sure that we understand why we play well when we play well."

Cody Zeller had 16 points, Christian Watford 13 and Jordan Hulls 11 for the Hoosiers (15-3, 3-3 Big Ten), who lost at home to unranked Minnesota on Wednesday night.

The game was the first Indiana has played against another top 10 team since 2002 and the Hoosiers' first visit to an opponent also ranked in single digits since 1992.

"We just didn't execute the way we need to," Hulls said. "They definitely wanted to get up into us and keep us from executing our offense. We've got to play tougher than that."

Smith more than doubled his career high of 12 points, which came in Indiana's 74-71 upset of the Buckeyes (16-3, 4-2) on Dec. 31.

All-America forward Jared Sullinger added 16 points, William Buford 12 and Deshaun Thomas 11 for the Buckeyes, coming off a loss at Illinois on Tuesday night. Several players questioned their teammates' commitment and effort after that game.

There was no doubt about either on Sunday as Ohio State took command early and was never threatened.

"That's what makes them so good," Zeller said. "They've got Buford outside and Smith. Smith got hot tonight. They have so many weapons, it makes them tough to beat."

The Hoosiers struggled in the opening half, mustering just 14 points on 6 of 22 shooting (27 percent) from the field. They seldom got the ball inside, and seldom made an outside shot while digging a 35-14 hole.

Part of that was Ohio State's harassing defense. But Indiana also played haphazardly at times, finishing with 17 turnovers.

"We just didn't execute the way we need to," Hulls said. "They definitely wanted to get up into us and keep us from executing our offense. We've got to play tougher than that."

The Hoosiers needed to play a near perfect game to win. They weren't even close, Crean said.

"You're not going to beat a team that is as talented as they are if you don't respond," he said. "We were not as good as we needed to be defensively and once they got up, we got a little bit of that deer-in-the-headlights look especially on the offensive end."

He added that if the Buckeyes are able to get outside shooting out of Smith and Buford, blended with the inside muscle of the 6-foot-9 Sullinger, a lot of teams will be unhappy after games.

"They do that (shoot well outside) and they win the national championship," Crean said.

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .