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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Solemn farewell

IU offense struggles against Buckeyes

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Tipoff was delayed 10 minutes Tuesday in Assembly Hall by wintery conditions outside.

At least for now, so was sole possession of the Big Ten crown.

With an offense at times as cold as the snowy climate, IU dropped its final home game 67-58 to Ohio State, another team still in the running for a share of the conference title.

Though nets were sheared, photos flashed and a trophy awarded for the share of the crown, IU now must win at Michigan Sunday to assure the outright Big Ten title, something IU has not attained since 1993.

“The sweet part is, we’ve still got a lot of basketball left,” senior forward Derek Elston said in his post-game Senior Night speech.

Seeking to prevent another outburst like his 26 points in the teams’ first meeting, IU employed a number of different defenders on OSU’s Deshaun Thomas.

Junior guard Victor Oladipo was assigned to Thomas first, but sustained a second foul less than halfway through the period. Even before that, though, senior forward Christian Watford and sophomore forward Cody Zeller also took turns guarding the Fort Wayne native.

Entering the game, his last at home, for the first time shortly after Oladipo was benched, Elston quickly found himself trying to contain Thomas, as well.

For the first half, it worked, as Thomas managed just six points. However, as Ohio State stayed neck-and-neck with IU, then pulled away with a 9-0 run for the upset, Thomas was right there, finishing as the team’s leading scorer with 18 points.

After trailing in the opening moments, a jumper by Jordan Hulls gave IU a brief lead, but the resulting free throws from Oladipo’s second foul tied the game at 15. IU quickly regained the lead, but could not distance itself by more than a single possession.

Less than five minutes later, Zeller sustained his own second foul. IU would play the rest of the half without either player.

Watford hit a 3-pointer to give IU a four-point edge, its largest of the half, but the IU offense went cold, missing its final four shots of the half and a pair of free throws.

Meanwhile, Ohio State closed with a 7-0 run to lead 28-25 at halftime.

Both Oladipo and Zeller returned to start the second half and quickly made their presence known. Oladipo knotted the game with a 3-pointer on IU’s first
possession.

Seconds later, he muscled through traffic for a defensive board that would become a Watford jump shot that put IU up.

Off of 6-of-6 shooting to start the half, IU boosted the lead as high as five points before the Buckeyes began pounding the ball into the post, as Crean had predicted they would, for a series of layups that gave them the lead once again at 44-43.

"We definitely had the game going the way we wanted in the start of the second half. Then somewhere in between the start of the half and the 12-minute mark it just kind of felt like too many mental errors were stacking on top of each other," Elston said. "Anytime you dwell on one of those, you're just not playing your game anymore, and I think that's what happened tonight."

In IU’s victory against OSU in Columbus, Ohio earlier in the season, Oladipo, Watford and Zeller each broke the 20-point mark and shouldered the vast majority of the scoring load.

The early moments of Tuesday’s second half were reminiscent of that win. The trio combined for the first 18 IU points of the period.

However, the sheer volume of shots by Ohio State kept the visitors ahead as they built their own five-point lead.

IU closed within two points at 52-50 after a pair of Zeller free throws before the Buckeye’s unleashed a 9-0 run, this one to give them the largest lead of the game by either team. It was not a matter of IU missing shots, but rather failing to find scoring opportunities to begin with, allowing OSU to snag offensive rebounds and fumbling the ball out of bounds once the Hoosiers did have the ball.

"We just didn't execute offensively," Hulls said. "We allowed way too many transition buckets, turned the ball over too much, which led to them getting easy buckets. There were some stretches there that we would play really good `D' for the whole shot clock and then they would get a bucket right at the end."

When Oladipo coughed up the ball near the perimeter, leading to a breakaway OSU dunk that made it 61-50, IU’s fate seemed sealed.

It being senior night, though, IU’s seniors had one final charge in them. A Watford long ball stopped the bleeding, while Hulls cut through the monotony of fouls and free throws with his own 3-pointer that brought IU back within six.

With 40.5 second left, IU suddenly had a chance, particularly once the Buckeyes turned the ball over out of bounds under IU’s hoop. IU failed to score on the inbound, though, and in fact would not score again.

OSU ran down the clock with a keep-away passing exercise. When freshman guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell managed a last second jumper, it dropped halfway through the hoop, then rattled out. Like IU’s hopes of clinching an outright Big Ten title Tuesday, it seemed all but assured, then fell away.

“I know we didn’t have the night we’d have liked, but we’ve still got a share of the Big Ten championship,” Crean said. “We’re all disappointed in the result tonight, but we’re not disappointed in how we got to this point.”

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