Jarrad Odle said a few weeks ago that after three years of mediocre finishes, he wants to win something in his senior season at IU.\nThis is probably why Dane Fife left Michigan, to play in games like these for the Hoosiers. And this type of late-season showdown is probably why Jared Jeffries turned down every school in America to stay in Bloomington and play at IU.\nThis used to happen a lot more often for the Hoosiers, but not recently. But this season it is happening, and tonight might be the most important Big Ten game for IU in nearly a decade. Tonight the No. 22 Hoosiers get a second crack at No. 19 Ohio State at 7 p.m. in Assembly Hall. \nAnd once again, sole possession of first place in the Big Ten is on the line, with both teams having three games left in the regular season after tonight. IU hasn't been in this position since 1993, and that is why Mike Davis knows his team is anxious.\n"I felt the excitement (Sunday) after we won the game against Michigan," Davis said this week. "Our guys are really excited about having the opportunity to play for first place."\nTonight is probably more important for the Hoosiers (17-8, 9-3 Big Ten) because they have already lost to the Buckeyes, falling in Columbus 73-67 Jan. 19. Back then, the teams were tied for the conference lead at 4-0.\nSince then, both teams have faltered at times but have been able to rebound before ever losing more than two games in a row. The Hoosiers suffered their third conference loss last Wednesday against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes (18-5, 9-3) lost at Michigan State Feb. 10 to drop their third league game.\nNot only are the two teams' records similar, but they also have similar styles. Both rely on their guards to create shots and on a trio of forwards to step in and score when necessary. When the Hoosiers look into the mirror, they see some of the same tendencies of the Buckeyes.\n"They're just a very sound basketball team. They're a lot like us," Fife said. "They play together. They look to get the ball inside. They have a little more penetration from their guards."\nThose guards are Brian Brown, who leads the team with nearly 15 points per game, and Brent Darby, who's second on the team with more than 13 points per game. Both guards gave the Hoosiers fits in January.\nIn that game at Value City Arena, Brown and Darby combined for 37 points, but Fife and Kyle Hornsby combined for just nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.\n"We didn't contain them when we needed to," Davis said. "No one has stopped their guards from penetrating the whole year. We had (Tom) Coverdale and Fife pick up two fouls in the first half, and that really hurt us. \n"We had to bring our big guys to help out more, and our guards didn't really seal the other guys off the glass. It was a combination of us not playing really good team defense."\nSimilarities aside, a big difference between the two will be the status of the Hoosiers' star, Jeffries. He was held to just 18 minutes of action Sunday in Ann Arbor, and Davis doesn't see Jeffries playing a full game on that sore right ankle that he hurt against Louisville Feb. 9.\nAgainst Ohio State in January, Jeffries led the Hoosiers with 22 points and 10 rebounds.\n"Hopefully he can go," Davis said. "Against Michigan he was probably about 70 percent, but 70 percent of Jared Jeffries is pretty good. To have him on the court gives our guys confidence. Hopefully he's able to play for 40 minutes (tonight), but as of now it's doubtful."\nBeyond Brown and Darby, the Buckeyes are a relatively young team like the Hoosiers. Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said he isn't worried that his team will be too anxious before the game. Instead, O'Brien is just pleased to play in such an important game so late in the season.\n"It's not a must-win game, but it's a very important game," O'Brien said. "Hopefully it'll be good. With four games left, you're tied for first. I don't know if you can ask for much more than that. It's right there."\nThe stage was set this weekend. The Buckeyes won at Iowa in the third game of a four-game road swing that concludes tonight. The Hoosiers won at Michigan, 75-55. Both teams say they couldn't hope for a better situation in late February.\n"We want to win out right now. That's all we're thinking," Jeff Newton said. "As long as we take care of our end, we'll be straight for the Big Ten title."\nHoosier fans and players have been waiting for such an important game so late in the season for years. Fife said Sunday this is a special season, with IU playing for a conference championship rather than for a better seeding in the Big Ten Tournament.\nWith three-quarters of the conference season gone, this is all the Hoosiers could ask for -- a shot to own first place by themselves in a game played at Assembly Hall. \n"We wanted to be in the position where we play Ohio State at 9-3 and 9-3," Davis said. "It'll be a big game"
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