COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was quiet inside Value City Arena. Quiet enough for the echo of IU’s coaching staff barking orders to be heard in the top-most row. Yet IU men’s basketball’s offense struggled in a fashion that has increasingly become the norm on the road.
While the low point total of 59 was similar to many of its past road trips, the challenges IU faced against Ohio State came in areas where the team has had consistent success throughout the season.
IU head coach Archie Miller seemed to call out his team in his post-game press conference. He said they can’t play hard and practice soft. He’s said his team’s physicality level had dropped. The areas IU has relied on — interior play, getting to the line and rebounding — were all absent.
“We could not rebound the ball,” Miller said. “That’s the first time all season long that I can really recall our team just getting housed.”
IU only had four offensive rebounds and zero second-chance points. Miller said that was telling of the game as a whole. Sophomore guard Rob Phinisee said offensive rebounding has been the team's bread and butter this season.
Rebounding has often been an indication of IU’s effort level on the floor. The Hoosiers came into Ohio State ranked 11th nationally in rebounding margin. But the Buckeyes outrebounded them 31-24. The last time IU was out-rebounded was against Rutgers on Jan. 15, another one of the team's ugly road losses.
“Rebounding’s been a staple for this team,” Miller said. “We were locked to the ground around the rim. It’s a little concerning.”
IU’s starting big men — freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, junior forward Justin Smith and redshirt junior forward Joey Brunk — scored a combined 16 points. They shot 4-13 from the field. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s three starting forwards scored 31 points on 13-21 shooting along with 15 rebounds.
The Hoosiers offense uses feeding to the post and getting to the rim. Against Ohio State, IU missed eight layups and five more shots in the paint.
Jackson-Davis led IU with seven rebounds — the only IU player with more than four — but had just six shots in 33 minutes. IU didn’t have him, or any of its forwards, to bail the offense out of possessions that had ground to a standstill or missed shots collected for second chance points.
“You can’t play smash mouth basketball for 40 minutes and be successful,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said.
But that is the style of play IU has been forced to use given the construction of its roster. IU shot 12-20 on 2-pointers. Uncharacteristically, IU made seven threes to keep the game within a single-digit margin at the end.
IU needed senior guard Devonte Green to hit a shot from the Ohio State logo at midcourt at the halftime buzzer to eclipse 20 points in the first half.
Green’s shot ended a five-minute drought for IU with no field goals. It was IU’s second major scoreless period of the first half. IU didn't score for roughly six and a half minutes early in the first half until Phinisee hit a running layup. In that dry spell, Ohio State jumped out to a lead. IU led for 39 seconds at the start of the game. But after its first-half droughts, IU was never in front again.
After playing four games in 10 days, all against projected NCAA Tournament teams, IU gets a chance to rest. The Hoosiers have a week off before a 2 p.m. game Feb. 8 against Purdue in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
After being beaten at its own game, it’s a break Miller knows his team needs.
“This team has hit a pothole,” Miller said. “We’re going to have to change paths here and change course of how we’re playing. The only group that can really get themselves out of it is us.”