It was almost symphonic. Spearheaded by a frenzy-filled 24-3 third quarter run, the Hoosiers’ 78-65 win over No. 2 Ohio State Thursday night was as emphatic a statement as a team can make.
The statement — an indication that this Indiana team is a legit national contender — only narrowly drowned out the boisterous chants from the record-setting regular season Assembly Hall crowd. Their vitriol toward Buckeye blunders and overwhelming support for Hoosier successes created an indescribable atmosphere: one that may be looked back upon fondly in the postseason.
Aside from freshman Yarden Garzon’s crucial second half 3-point explosion and senior forward Mackenzie Holmes’ masterclass from the post, head coach Teri Moren made sure to direct credit to something else — the mariachi band that performed the national anthem prior to tipoff.
“I thought the mariachi band was terrific,” Moren said after the game. “They got us started in the right kind of way.”
Was she joking? Perhaps. But I’d like to think that the melodic plucking of the nylon guitar strings and the smooth cries of the trumpets foreshadowed the Hoosiers’ rhythmic and up-tempo play.
Fresh off a loss to No. 10 Iowa, Ohio State entered Thursday’s contest with a fiery need for redemption. Yet, each and every Indiana player, including the proverbial “extra teammate” that was the swaths of fans, had a determination to deny the Buckeyes any satisfaction.
“Hoosier nation keeps showing up for us night in and night out,” Holmes said. “It’s so special because not only are they showing up but they’re giving us momentum. There were times when the screams and the cheers were so deafening.”
The Hoosiers handled a ferocious full-court press with ease. The maturity of players like junior guards Chloe Moore-McNeil and Sydney Parrish, along with graduate guard Grace Berger, formed mesmerizing passing triangles that often led to easy looks in transition.
Attempting to rectify a four-point deficit at the half, Indiana appeared to be gradually reeling. It felt like at any moment the Buckeyes could spark a monstrous run and go into cruise control. But on the hallowed floor of Assembly Hall, the visitors’ drive is rocky, at best.
Entering the third quarter, the Hoosiers had to make some sort of change. Not quite a George Costanza “if everything I do is wrong the opposite must be right” level shift, but something. Through the first two periods, Indiana’s shot selection was shaky.
There were a few too many instances of unnecessary contested shots that could have been avoided with an extra pass. One solution would be to utilize more quick hitters for Indiana’s shooters, but they concocted a separate plan. Instead of playing methodically out of half-court sets, the Hoosiers decided to run them out of the gym by spending a few minutes picking off virtually every Buckeye pass and taking it the other way for a score.
It was a quarter of beauty. Outscoring the No. 2 team in the country 27-6 in any period simply doesn’t happen. And with each point, each defensive stop and each highly questionable foul call, the crowd rose to their feet in a raucous unison.
Indiana’s offensive numbers weren’t stellar — they would’ve shot 17% from deep if not for Garzon’s four conversions. Nonetheless, for the shots that did go in, they all felt momentous. Not in the sense that they had struggled to score, but against a team of Ohio State’s stature, momentum is a must.
Defensively, the Hoosiers were perhaps even better than expected against a devastatingly balanced Buckeye scoring group. Parrish and Garzon notched double doubles, and all three of Garzon’s steals came at highly opportune moments.
As “MVP” chants rained down on Holmes and calls of “Overrated!” shunned Ohio State on its sorrowful exit into the visitors’ tunnel, the world of college basketball was put on notice.
The Hoosiers didn’t intend to shock anyone — the Buckeyes were the third top-10 team they’ve toppled this season. The win may come as a surprise to teams outside the Big Ten, but it shouldn’t.
For the remainder of the season, they will be the team that opposing foes clamor to deem unworthy of their position in the national ranks.
At this stage, Indiana isn’t an underdog. They’re a national contender.