After suffering a heart-breaking loss at the buzzer on Thursday night, the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers will try to get back on track in Sunday's Big Ten showdown at 10th-ranked Ohio State.
Indiana won a crucial game against then top-ranked Michigan on Feb. 2, which allowed it to climb back to No. 1 in the latest AP poll, but it promptly dropped a road matchup with Illinois on Thursday night, 74-72, making it the fifth consecutive week the team ranked No. 1 has lost. The Hoosiers are still an outstanding 20-3 overall this season and 8-2 in the conference, and with a victory in this matchup will keep pace atop the league standings.
Ohio State faced a difficult challenge in traveling to No. 3 Michigan last Tuesday, and although it took the game to overtime it ultimately fell, 76-74, to drop to 7-3 in league play. Prior to the setback, the Buckeyes (17-5) had won four straight games. They'll surely welcome a return home where they've lost just once in 13 opportunities this season.
Indiana leads the all-time series with Ohio State, 100-75, although the Buckeyes have had the Hoosiers' number in recent years with wins in seven of the last eight meetings.
The Hoosiers appeared well on their way to a road victory earlier in the week when they led Illinois by 10 points with 4:21 to play, but the Illini ripped off a furious 15-3 run down the stretch, culminating in Tyler Griffey's game- winning layup as time expired to pull off the upset. Indiana's collapse spoiled a great night at the offensive end where it shot 50 percent from the floor, including 9-of-17 from 3-point range. Cody Zeller paced the squad with 14 points and nine rebounds, Will Sheehey scored 13 points from off the bench, and Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls netted 12 and 11, respectively. IU has one of the most prolific offenses in the country, ranking second nationally in both scoring (83.3 ppg) and scoring margin (+21.7). Zeller, who was named the preseason National Player of the Year, is shooting just shy of 60 percent from the field for 16.2 ppg while adding 8.3 ppg and more than a block and a steal per contest, and he has logged five double-doubles in 10 Big Ten games. Victor Oladipo (13.8 ppg) is another productive player, as he is shooting 63.6 percent from the floor, while Watford (12.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Hulls (11.1 ppg) and Sheehey (10.0 ppg) round out a balanced attack.
Down by two in the final minute of regulation, Ohio State forced overtime following a game-tying jumper by Lenzelle Smith, Jr., but it managed to shoot just 1-of-5 from the field in the extra session as it fell just short of the road victory. Deshaun Thomas wasn't at his best (6-of-15), but he drained a pair of 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 17 points. LaQuinton Ross netted 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench, Aaron Craft tallied 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals, and Smith, Jr. chipped in with 10 points and four assists in the setback. The Buckeyes' offensive attack isn't nearly as potent as Indiana's, but they still score plenty of points (71.8 ppg) to support their fantastic scoring defense, which ranks second in the conference in yielding a mere 58.1 ppg. Thomas is the Big Ten's leading scorer at 19.9 ppg, doing so on impressive percentages from the field (.464), 3-point range (.400), and the foul line (.823). Smith, Jr. is a solid second option with 10.5 ppg, and Craft is a valuable asset at both ends of the court with 9.3 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.8 rpg and 1.9 spg.