COLUMBUS, Ohio — Right from the start, junior center Joey Brunk had issues matching the physicality of Ohio State junior forward Kaleb Wesson. The 68-59 loss to Ohio State on Saturday was the third straight game where Brunk and the rest of the frontcourt was pushed around and exploited.
On the first possession, Wesson caught the ball on the right block and didn’t hesitate to take on Brunk. Wesson took one dribble with his right hand then immediately spun around to get a shot off with his left hand.
The following offensive trip for Ohio State wasn’t much different. Wesson found himself alone with Brunk in the paint once again. Brunk tried to deny the entry pass, but Wesson got in position and separated himself once the ball was thrown to him in the post.
As Wesson slammed home the open dunk, Brunk struggled to catch himself from falling to the ground.
“They imposed their will physically on the boards,” IU head coach Archie Miller said after the game. “It was the first time all season I can recall our team getting housed on the glass like that. The physicality of our team has taken a real drop.”
IU's successes this season have come in large part due to the effort in the post. For the most part, the Hoosiers have relied on the physicality their four frontcourt players have provided night in and night out.
In the close home loss to then-No. 17 Maryland, IU won the battle on the boards but couldn’t contain sophomore forward Jalen Smith from scoring a winning layup at the end of the game. In its next loss against No. 24 Penn State, IU allowed 36 points in the paint.
Saturday was no different as Ohio State kept IU from scoring a single second-chance point and outscored the Hoosiers by six in the paint. The Buckeyes outrebounded the Hoosiers by seven, which is the most IU has given up this season.
“Our frontcourt is really struggling right now to rebound and defend inside,” Miller said.
In five of the seven losses for the Hoosiers this season, they’ve been outscored in the paint. IU has also had to play without sophomore forward Race Thompson after he suffered an injury in the first half against then-No. 11 Michigan State on Jan. 23.
As IU finds itself now on a three-game losing streak, it’ll have a week off before Purdue comes to Bloomington next Saturday. In a pair of losses to Purdue last year, IU was outscored in the post by a combined 18 points.
If the Hoosiers hope to snap the losing streak, they’ll begin with reestablishing their post dominance from earlier this season.
“Rebounding has been a staple for this team,” Miller said. “We are one of the better rebounding teams in the country and one of the better rebounding teams in the league. Our physicality and just the energy level isn’t there right now.”
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