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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

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Malik Reneau’s monstrous second half powers Indiana men’s basketball past Ohio State

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After Ohio State ripped off a run to gain a 9-point lead early in the second half, Indiana men’s basketball desperately needed an answer. Nothing was working offensively for the Hoosiers, and the Buckeyes looked primed to run away with the contest.  

Then, Malik Reneau emerged. 

The sophomore forward posted 19 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as Indiana clawed back to pull away with a 71-65 win Saturday night. He also led the team with seven rebounds and 37 minutes. 

Indiana’s season leading scorer didn’t get off to the right start. He scored just 4 points in the first half — including the Hoosiers’ second basket of the game — on 2-for-5 shooting, and Indiana trailed by 1 at the break. Senior guard Xavier Johnson said postgame that head coach Mike Woodson challenged Reneau in the locker room. 

“He told him, ‘You got to pick your game up, you’re not playing as well,’” Johnson said. 

Reneau answered the call. He missed his first shot of the frame during Ohio State’s 8-0 run to open the period but was near flawless after.  

First, the 6-foot-9 forward got to work in the post. Using his endless pivots, Reneau continually tricked his defenders to find an opening and slithered his way towards the basket for easy looks, scoring three straight field goals for the Hoosiers. 

The lefty’s scoring ignited an Indiana run and brought the deficit within 1 point. After an Ohio State basket to stop the bleeding, Reneau exhibited his range with a 3-pointer to knot things up at 48 with 12 minutes remaining.  

The Hoosiers fed off Reneau’s energy and, backed by a nearly sold-out Assembly Hall crowd, were able to get over the hump. Following an Ohio State bucket, Reneau prevented the Buckeyes from getting further ahead with a volleyball-esque swat in transition. Soon after, Indiana took its first lead since just before halftime with under 10 minutes to play. 

The Cream and Crimson continued to feed off its momentum, and Reneau was the focal point. He drew the attention of the Buckeyes’ defense to open up the floor for Indiana’s guards to knock down a pair of 3-point shots and a mid-range jumper. He mixed things up with more post scores of his own. 

With four minutes remaining, the Hoosiers built an 8-point lead, and Reneau all but sealed the deal. He faked running up to the key to screen and deceived Buckeye senior forward Zed Key, spinning around him and soaring for an alley-oop from Johnson to go up 10.  

Ohio State didn’t lay down and made it a 2-point game with 1:45 left, but Reneau showcased his clutch gene with his signature post hook to extend the Hoosier lead, and free throws from Johnson finalized the result. 

The lefty big’s growth has been exponential in his sophomore campaign. Less than two months ago, he set a career-high with 18 points in a loss to the University of Connecticut on Nov. 19. Fast forward and Saturday night marked the second time this season he’s scored more than 19 points in a single frame — he put up 21 points in the second half against Kennesaw State University on Dec. 29. 

A former 5-star prospect, Reneau’s contributions were limited in his freshman season. Shadowed by All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis and veteran Race Thompson, Reneau didn’t have the role nor the opportunities to shine.  

Now, however, he has become the central figure in Indiana’s offense. Woodson attributes the expansion in Reneau’s game to his increased work ethic over the summer.  

“He never really left campus,” Woodson said. “He put the work in this summer, and it’s paying off.” 

In 13.2 more minutes per game, Reneau has increased his scoring average by 10.4 points while increasing his efficiency despite a higher volume of field goal attempts with his field goal percentage up .04%. After making only two 3-pointers on five attempts his freshman year, Reneau has converted 11 long balls on 23 attempts this season. 

Reneau and Indiana’s next challenge come against Rutgers, anchored by senior center Clifford Omoruyi — a 2023 Big Ten All-Defensive Team member. The two teams face off at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 in Piscataway, New Jersey. 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 

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