It was that kind of night for IU.
Even the mild-mannered Hulls displayed signs of disappointment on the court in his team’s 79-54 loss to Ohio State.
The Hoosiers had shown little emotion beforehand, and Ohio State kept IU from scoring more than 8 points in the first 15 minutes. The Buckeyes not only had the upper hand on the scoreboard for the entire bout, but their mentality stifled IU in its first true road game.
IU coach Tom Crean made up for the emotion missing from his team’s performance in his postgame press conference. Veering away from questions about Ohio State and its star guard Evan Turner, Crean was intent to take on what he said was his team’s lack of communication, togetherness and leadership.
“We were not tough enough, first off,” Crean said. “We were not aggressive enough on either end of the court, and we played like a team in its first road game and that’s disappointing.”
The team that had shown such promise against Michigan on Dec. 31 struggled against the Buckeyes. A poor shooting percentage, a high turnover total and a penchant for going around instead of at Ohio State defenders doomed IU.
The injury of Ohio State guard Evan Turner had Ohio State sliding, but the team changed its fortunes against a Hoosier club that had been on the upswing before heading for the Interstate.
After a string of contests at home and neutral sights, IU hadn't played a game this season in the hostile environment it encountered with the football-loving Buckeye fans.
“I think, tonight, our intensity, we just kind of took it to another level,” Ohio State guard Jon Diebler said.
“I think the key thing is we attacked instead of reacting,” Turner added.
The Hoosiers faced a team that forced them to play tentative basketball. Instead of slashing, they careened around the perimeter. Their indecisiveness led to 18-of-53 shooting, which was accompanied by only four 3-pointers on 18 tries.
Ohio State was 24-of-52 from the field and had 16 turnovers, not far off from IU’s 24.
But the Buckeyes scored 12 points from IU’s missteps.
Where the Buckeye’s had an obvious advantage was in the ultimate measure of aggressiveness - free-throw attempts. IU was 14-of-17 from the line, but Ohio State was 23-of-32.
Crean said there was no way to ingrain the toughness necessary to win into his players.
“You can’t bestow it on anybody,” he said. “I wish you could. We need to develop more of a nasty disposition.”
Only two players scored in double digits for IU, and four players had more than 4 turnovers.
IU was led by sophomore guard Verdell Jones, who scored 22 points on the night and shot 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. He was followed by freshman forward Christian Watford’s 11 points.
Last season, IU’s first road game ended as an 83-58 loss to Wake Forest. This Ohio State loss brought back the fact that this team is somewhat green and lacking a sense of direction, but Crean said his patience for that is waning.
“We did not have the fighting spirit that we practice with, that we had against Michigan, that we’re trying to develop,” he said. He said a team must be able to “grind it out and be very good physically and mentally on the defensive end and on the glass.”
Crean also said his team has yet to find out who is supposed to deliver the leadership resulting in the team-wide atmosphere he described.
“I think we just have to continue to develop it,” he said. “This is where we’re at. It’s a process that’s never going to go as fast as I would like it to go.”
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