It was looking like more of the same for IU.
Five days after scoring 50 points at Michigan State, IU’s offense had nothing going for it early against No. 22 Ohio State.
IU possessed the ball nine times in the first five minutes: five turnovers, three missed shots, just two points. The offense wasn’t moving, and boos were coming from the Assembly Hall crowd.
Again, the Hoosiers were standing around. Again, shots weren’t falling. Again, IU was on its way to an ugly loss.
Then the Hoosiers woke up. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough for a 69-66 win.
“Not a fluid offensive game,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “Ohio State’s not going to give you a fluid offensive game, but we found ways to make plays.”
After falling behind early, IU held the lead for the entire second half. Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell had an open look to tie the game at the buzzer, but it went long to give IU the victory.
“It was a game where we were able to hold momentum a little bit longer, and that helped us,” Crean said.
The three-man trio of Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr., made most of those plays. The three combined for 43 points and 21 rebounds.
Williams was everywhere for the Hoosiers. He finished with 15 points, and a career-high 12 rebounds for his second career double-double, adding in three assists and a block. Crean praised the sophomore forward’s production, but said his biggest moment came early in the second half.
Less than two minutes out of halftime, Blackmon pulled in a rebound and found Williams on the break. Williams streaked down the court, got to the rim and finished with a one-handed dunk. The two points were helpful, but more important was the dunk’s aftereffect.
“That Troy dunk just brought everybody,” Crean said. “It brought the fans up, and it brought our team up.”
Blackmon finished with a game-high 18 points after scoring just two in the first half. His 3-point shooting slump continued — just 1-of-5 from deep — but he found other ways to score. He remains IU’s leading scorer at 16.7 points ?per game.
Ferrell finished with just 10 points, but Crean said the junior guard’s influence goes beyond the box score.
“We got a lot of good basketball from a lot of guys, but when I say that I think we’ve got as good a two-way guard as there is in the country at being able to play both ends of the court, Yogi, today is another reason why I say that,” Crean said.
Crean and his staff rely heavily on scouting reports and pregame planning in preparation for big games. The keys for Saturday, he said, were rebounding, free throws and 3-point defense. IU found success in all three.
The Hoosiers outrebounded the Buckeyes 48-39. IU took one more free throw and held Ohio State to 3-of-21 3-point shooting.
The game plan that failed in East Lansing, Mich., worked against Ohio State.