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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

IU to face an OSU team led by Craft, Thomas

A persistent debate of late has been who is the country’s best defender, the conversation typically centering on the Big Ten between IU junior guard Victor Oladipo and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft.

If you were to ask IU freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, though, the answer is easy.

“In my mind, I think Vic’s better,” Ferrell said. “Even as an all-around player, I think Vic’s better. He’s just always down and alert on defense.”

Ferrell will get a first-hand, up-close-and-personal look at both players on Sunday, when No. 1 IU travels to Columbus, Ohio to take on No. 10 Ohio State at 1 p.m. EST.

Though not necessarily unbalanced, the makeup of the Buckeyes is such that they are clearly led by a certain player on each end of the court. On defense, that player is the 6-foot-2-inch Craft, who figures to primarily guard Ferrell Sunday.

“He’s got quick feet, quick hands,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “He’s extremely physical on the ball. He gets up into you. He uses his hands very well. He’s got the respect of the officials. I think that’s certain. But his athleticism is really unique, with his foot speed and his hand speed.”

As a freshman, Ferrell has never been guarded by Craft before, but in the days leading up to his matchup with the Buckeye, Ferrell benefitted from quite likely the next best thing.

“Especially in practice yesterday, Vic was trying to act like Craft toward me and get up into me,” Ferrell said. “I definitely have a feel of how he’s going to play me.”

While Craft headlines and Ohio State defense that Crean said is “as physically tough defensively as any team we’ll have faced at this point,” the Ohio State offense likewise runs through junior forward Deshaun Thomas.

Far and away his team’s leading scorer at 19.9 points per game—good for fifteenth best nationally and third among major conference players—the Fort Wayne native has taken nearly twice as many shots as anyone else on the squad.

“He’s got a scorer’s mentality,” Crean said. “He’s big. He gets it off extremely quick. He can play at the post. He’s extremely dangerous in the midpost area and in the pick-and-pop.”

Standing 6-feet-7-inches and weighing 225 pounds, the junior’s size has helped him become his team’s leading rebounder as well, and requires a team effort to defend him.

“He’s just an all-around scorer,” Crean said. “There’s no way around that. You’ve got to guard him individually, but at the same time, you’ve got to have your whole team into him.”

Thomas has played every minute of the Buckeyes’ last three games, including a loss to Michigan their last time out. The Hoosiers too are coming off a loss, in their case Thursday evening’s stunning road loss to Illinois after a late meltdown.

Crean said he has preached to his team not to have a bounce-back mentality going into the next game after an upset loss, but rather to simply focus on fixing what went wrong, in this case defensive communication and late game offensive pacing that saw the team’s fast tempo override sound strategy.

“You’ve got to be able to change speeds mentality-wise,” Crean said. “Sometimes when you’re going really fast and you want to play fast, you’ve got to really understand the time-and-score element of it and we didn’t do a good job of that.”

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