COLUMBUS, Ohio — Before IU could make any adjustments Tuesday night, they’d already been hit with a punch in the mouth.
For a brief few minutes, the Hoosiers looked like they might not fall victim to the tired legs that come when playing on one day of rest. But No. 17 Ohio State quickly established its dominance, particularly in the post, to jump-start an overwhelming run and coast to a 71-56 victory.
“They set the tone very early with their physicality,” IU Coach Archie Miller said. “Knocked us on our heels pretty quick, and we were working uphill from there most of the night.”
Just two days after the Hoosiers went up against 7-foot-2 Purdue center Isaac Haas, IU appeared to get a bit of a reprieve by facing an Ohio State team with no player taller than 6-foot-9. But like they struggled against Haas, IU’s frontcourt had no answers for Ohio State’s big men either.
The Buckeyes established their presence down low early and often, force-feeding freshman Kaleb Wesson and senior Jae’Sean Tate as they repeatedly found open space in the paint and scored 10 of their team’s first 12 points.
After IU led 5-4 in the game’s opening minutes, Ohio State went on a 23-5 run and killed any momentum the Hoosiers might have had. IU trailed by double digits at the midway point of the opening half, and the signs of fatigue became overtly apparent.
Wesson and Tate combined to make nine of their 10 shot attempts in the first half as they led the Buckeyes in the early going. Wesson picked up 10 of his 14 points in the first half and didn’t miss a shot in the game.
After the game, Miller was left searching for answers. He tried to double-team Haas unsuccessfully on Sunday, and stayed away from the tactic against the Buckeyes.
“We had no answer for the big fella,” Miller said of Wesson. “It’s killing us right now inside. We have to get back to trying to figure a way out of keeping things as hard as possible in there.”
In the game’s first 10 minutes, the Buckeyes shot nearly 75 percent. That number dropped a bit as the game went on, but the early onslaught of efficiency was enough to essentially bury IU. The Hoosiers trailed by 15 at the break and never trailed by less than 12 throughout the rest of the game.
Junior forward Juwan Morgan, who combined with sophomore guard Devonte Green to provide more than half of IU’s scoring, did his part with 11 first-half points. But right from the start, Morgan said he didn’t sense unity among his teammates on either end of the court.
It’s difficult to overcome tired legs, especially once a game gets underway, but communication shouldn’t be affected by fatigue. As IU gets ready to play another road game on one day of rest next Monday, expect Morgan and others to at least make a better effort at playing together. He knows they weren’t doing it Tuesday night.
“We weren’t really sharing the ball well,” Morgan said. “We weren’t connecting on defense. There were some lapses as far as transition defense and letting people get out. It just wasn’t a connected five out there.”
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