Indiana men’s basketball returned to Assembly Hall Saturday night and defeated Ohio State 86-70. The Hoosiers and Buckeyes entered the contest on different trajectories – the former on a four-game winning streak and the latter having lost six of its last seven games.
Even against the 12th-place team in the Big Ten at home, Indiana still got off to a slow start. Coming out flat so often had been a routine that plagued the Hoosiers as recently as a couple weeks ago. However, in its last five games – including tonight – Indiana overcame early struggles.
Ohio State held a seven-point lead with just under four minutes of game time played, but Indiana clawed its way to a 13-9 advantage shortly thereafter thanks to a flashy outside shooting display from freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino.
Hood-Schifino was a bright spot for the Hoosiers all half long. He knocked down five consecutive 3-pointers – 6-7 total – and finished the half with 20 points in 18 minutes.
“He’s a freshman that’s played very, very well for our ballclub this season,” head coach Mike Woodson said after the game. “He did get off to a hot start, and we needed every bit of it, because Ohio State got off to a great start. He was basically the only guy that was putting the ball in the hole.”
A back-and-forth affair ensued for the next nine minutes, and the Hoosiers held a narrow 31-30 lead after a free throw from Ohio State junior forward Zed Key brought the Buckeyes within one.
From there on out, it was all Indiana.
The Hoosiers ended the final five minutes of the half on a 15-0 run filled with dunks, jump shots and stifling defense. Hood-Schifino hit his sixth 3-pointer of the game amidst the offensive rampage and spearheaded Indiana’s disruptive perimeter guarding.
Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis had an uncharacteristically slow performance throughout the first 15 minutes. After averaging 27.3 points and 14.3 rebounds over Indiana’s four-game winning streak, it seemed as if his outstanding stat lines might drop back to equilibrium.
But an All-American has earned that title for a reason, and once Jackson-Davis got going, he made winning play after winning play for the Hoosiers.
Jackson-Davis' best sequence in the run included ripping down a defensive board, taking the ball all the way down the court and dishing a beautiful backdoor feed to cutting junior guard Trey Galloway for a reverse layup. On the next offensive possession, Jackson-Davis hammered a rim-shaking dunk – one of many for the senior captain in Saturday’s outing.
The second half of the game was, similar to the beginning of the first, a back-and-forth battle. Indiana and Ohio State traded buckets each time down the floor with swift 3-pointers and powerful rack-attacks.
Still, Indiana held a steady double-digit lead, thanks in full part to its insurmountable first-half offensive explosion.
The Hoosiers didn’t have any standout performers down the final stretch, but Jackson-Davis – in typical fashion – notched an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, adding six assists and three blocks, as well. It was a quiet outing compared to his previous performances this calendar year, but as always, Jackson-Davis' impact on Indiana’s success was unmatched.
Hood-Schifino's shooting evened out over the course of the final 20 minutes, and the freshman finished with 24 points on 75% from the field. His unbelievable first-half performance still came with plenty of acknowledgement and admiration, though, and Hood-Schifino was met by a raucous ovation upon his exit.
“(Hood-Schifino) is ready to go at any moment, he prepares mentally (and) physically,” freshman forward Malik Reneau, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, said. “He’s in the gym getting up shots after practice, before practice. He’s really prepared when those games come to perform like he performed today.”
Despite the lack of allure throughout the final 20 minutes, highlight plays were still aplenty. A couple jumpers from graduate forward Miller Kopp, a crafty slash to the basket by sophomore guard Tamar Bates, a 3-pointer from Reneau and a gravity-defying fadeaway from Jackson-Davis put the exclamation mark on Indiana’s large lead.
The final four minutes of the game moved slowly with tedious fouls, but the Hoosiers’ victory was all but sealed at the time of the final media timeout. The Hoosiers and Buckeyes played head to head for 35 minutes, but it was the dominant five-minute stretch at the end of the first half and Hood-Schifino's 3-point clinic that allowed Indiana to top Ohio State.
Now on a five-game winning streak, the Hoosiers are tied for fourth in the Big Ten. Indiana will travel to College Park, Maryland, to face its next foe in a 14-7 Maryland squad Jan. 31 with a date with in-state rival and No. 1-ranked Purdue on the horizon.