Indiana basketball’s continual knack of slow starts finally caught up to the team in the worst way against No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday.
For the third straight game, Indiana sleepwalked at the start, got down big, and had to play from behind the rest of the way.
In their previous two games, the Hoosiers found a way to dig out of early 17-4 and 21-7 deficits to beat Iowa and Northwestern, respectively,
On Saturday, a 21-6 deficit was far too much to overcome and set the tone for the game as Ohio State manhandled Indiana, 78-59, in Columbus. The loss snaps Indiana’s two-game win streak and puts the team at 11-9 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten.
“If you look at our starts it really comes down at the end of the day, making a couple layups, making a couple free throws,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “We have to knock in the easy ones to be able to stay in there and help the confidence level of our team.”
In the first three minutes, Indiana was in good shape. IU made two early 3-pointers, going up 6-2 at the 17:20 mark of the first half before imploding on both ends of the floor.
The Hoosiers’ four-point lead quickly became a 15-point deficit as Ohio State went on a 19-0 run. It took another 6:30 for Indiana to score again and it was 0-for-7 from the field in that span.
As Miller referenced, almost of those misses were layups or right around the rim.
The misses quickly become a mental struggle, and it showed most prominently with Trayce Jackson-Davis. The sophomore was by far Indiana’s best player of the game with 23 points and nine rebounds, but he didn’t score until 10:06 in the first half.
The slow starts for Jackson-Davis have become a common theme lately. As seen in the past few games, when Jackson-Davis — the offense’s focal point — isn’t clicking, the whole team struggles to contribute, too.
“With me it’s really just mentally… I’m in my head a lot,” Jackson-Davis said on his slow starts.
Outside of Jackson-Davis, there wasn’t a lot of scoring elsewhere. Just five other Hoosiers scored and only Jerome Hunter was in double digits with 10 points.
A huge part of the offense’s ineptitude came from rushing possessions and turning the ball over. Miller made it a point of emphasis to cut down on turnovers after the Northwestern win Wednesday when Indiana had 13, but there was no solution to that problem Saturday, either.
Indiana coughed up the 15 ball times against the Buckeyes. This fueled Ohio State to the win, as the team took full advantage of it, scoring 21 points off the Indiana turnovers.
When Indiana players did get chances to cut into the lead and make a run at the game, they couldn’t finish at the free throw line, either. The Hoosiers constantly split their pairs of freebies as they shot 54.5% from the line (12-for-22).
The same core of mistakes killed Indiana throughout the entirety of the afternoon and limited any opportunity the team had to come back.
“I thought we had two runs to be able to hang in the game, we lost both momentums with some offensive turnovers,” Miller said.
When down 34-28 with 1:32 left in the first half, Indiana missed a layup and then had a turnover on the next possession, ultimately becoming a 38-28 halftime deficit.
A Jackson-Davis dunk at the 14:11 mark in the second half got Indiana within five at 45-40 before the entire game slipped away. Indiana committed a turnover on the next three possessions and found itself down 54-40 in a matter of minutes.
On top of all Indiana’s self-inflicted mistakes, Ohio State was far tougher than Indiana to solidify the blowout.
The Buckeyes outrebounded Indiana, 36-28, and scored 20 second-chance points in the process.
“The way their guys compete… they can really, really ruffle you and rattle you a little bit with how physical the game is,” Miller said.