COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It was going so right for Indiana. Until the last minute of the game. Up by four with 56 seconds to go it was almost sealed. They just needed to get a stop. But after two Ohio State free throws, IU committed a rare defensive miscommunication that led to a wide open E.J. Liddell underneath the basket to tie the game.
Here are three key takeaways from Monday night’s 80-69 overtime loss in Columbus.
Ohio State exploits IU wings
It was clear in the first few minutes of the game that the Buckeyes wanted to utilize their wing matchups.
Buckeyes guard Malaki Branham had a team-high 13 points in Indiana’s win over OSU back in January and in that game Eugene Brown III had zero points in 10 minutes.
Monday night, those two gave IU trouble.
Branham: 27 points, five rebounds and three assists
Brown: 10 points and six rebounds
Branham was the focal point of the Buckeyes’ offense down the stretch. Every set piece, every pick and roll and every play went through him.
“We had no answer for him,” Mike Woodson said postgame in reference to Branham’s big game.
Parker Stewart and Miller Kopp were targeted and attacked on defense laterally and it showed at the end of the game. It has been clear over the course of the season that defensively those two are liabilities, it was exploited on Monday.
Miller Kopp can’t stay absent
It took Miller Kopp, who hasn't hit double figures since November in Syracuse, until the 11:39 point in the second half to take his fourth shot, which he made.
In recent weeks it seems as if on most of Indiana’s offensive possessions, Kopp stands in the corner or on the wing without touching the ball.
However, it was Kopp who sparked the run midway through the second half. Kopp was aggressive, got to the foul line and despite him shooting 2-for-8 from the field it was clear he lit the fire.
Indiana’s offense is better when Kopp gets to his spots on the floor, moves without the ball and is aggressive. While it very well could be a confidence issue with Kopp as to why his volume has been ghost-like, it needs to change.
A wing scoring threat gives Indiana a lot more options offensively. Tamar Bates, who was the birthday boy on Monday night, also showed flashes of that aggressiveness but his inexperience showed down the stretch as he hoisted a late shot clock isolation 3 with IU up two and less than 30 seconds remaining.
IU plays with resilience but can’t finish
Despite all of the heartbreaking losses, suspensions and inconsistencies, Indiana fights till the very last whistle.
This resilience was on full display Monday. Down 11 with 13:32 to go it would have been easy to fold and give up, something which has been all too familiar to fans in recent years.
The Hoosiers' defense kept them around in the first half as a struggling offense failed to give them any pace at all. IU shot 4-for-15 on layups and looked to have no direction whatsoever. Those are the numbers that teams get blown out with.
“I can’t fault effort,” Woodson said. "This team has not quit. If you think that, I think you watched the wrong game tonight.”
Yes, the team didn’t quit but it didn’t finish. But sometimes it feels like we’re watching the same game over and over again. A scrappy IU team fights itself back into the game and until the very end, just to let one mistake destroy them.
It’s clear there’s just something missing and a speed bump the Hoosiers just haven’t gotten over yet.