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Turnovers, poor 3-point shooting trump quick start for Hoosiers in loss to Ohio State

Indiana was outscored by 19 points over the final 36:33 of the game versus No. 14 Ohio State, making its quick start irrelevant. The No. 16 Hoosiers came to play from the opening tip, scoring the first 11 points of the game, but turnovers and poor 3-point shooting plagued Indiana in its 78-70 loss on its home court on Thursday.

Grace Berger. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

Indiana entered the game protecting the ball at one of the highest rates of any team in the NCAA, but turned the ball over 17 times versus Ohio State. Indiana’s 10.2 turnovers per game is second fewest in the NCAA, though Teri Moren’s group struggled to take care of the ball on Jan. 28.

"A lot of energy over there on the sideline which was great to see because we knew we had to start the game fast and well," Moren said. "It got to half time, and we still couldn’t knock down shots behind the arc."

Grace Berger did her best to keep the Hoosiers in this one, pouring in 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, but she couldn't do it on her own. Ali Patberg, Aleksa Gulbe and Jaelynn Penn — who returned to the starting lineup Thursday after missing three games with an ankle injury — were each held to single-digit points.

Stopping the scoring prowess of Jacy Sheldon and Madison Greene was a clear focus for Indiana, as the Hoosiers held the two guards nearly 10 points below each of their season averages. But the Buckeyes are more than just those two. 

The entire Ohio State starting lineup is averaging double-figure points per game this season, and the Indiana defense did not have the answers to stopping its balanced attack on Thursday. Braxtin Miller paced the Buckeyes with 25 points, followed by the versatile Dorka Juhasz with 19 points. Ohio State forward Aaliyah Patty kept Gulbe in foul trouble for most of the contest, hitting five of six free throws to contribute to her 13 points. 

"I think we did a decent to really good job of guarding them tonight," Moren said. "Madison Green was 0-for-5 and Jacy Sheldon was 1-of-10 from the field."

The Hoosiers trailed by six points heading into the fourth quarter of their win over No. 21 Northwestern, but a near opposite fourth quarter performance versus Ohio State put an eighth conference win out of question. Indiana was outscored 25-16 in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s contest.

A big reason Indiana crumbled in crunch time was due to its inability to knock down perimeter shots. Indiana hasn’t been a strong 3-point shooting team for the vast majority of the 2020-2021 season, hitting just 28 percent of its shots from beyond the arc.

"We struggled from the free-throw line. We turned the ball over way more than we have been doing," Moren said. "I think all of those things are just a recipe for a loss, especially against a team that has so many weapons."

And against the Buckeyes, Indiana made just one 3-pointer in 14 attempts. With this shooting effort, Indiana extended its losing streak to Ohio State to 15 games. The last time Indiana defeated Ohio State was Jan. 31, 2010.

The road win was also a record-setter for Ohio State. This marks the first time since February of 2006 that the Buckeyes defeated three teams in a row ranked in the AP top 25 poll. Losing Thursday also put Indiana’s hopes of winning the Big Ten in serious jeopardy.

Before the season, the Big Ten coaches picked Indiana to win the Big Ten, but it is starting to look like the coaches will be proved incorrect. Maryland sits atop the Big Ten standings at 7-1, and Indiana’s only game on the schedule versus first-place Maryland was an 84-80 loss on the road.

With this loss, Indiana moves to 7-2 in conference, bumping the Hoosiers down to fourth in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes’ win moves them up to second place in the conference at 6-1, ahead of the 5-1 Michigan Wolverines. 

Moving forward, the road does not get much easier for Indiana. Awaiting Sunday in Bloomington is a matchup with Michigan State, which is 9-3 overall. The Spartans have had a number of recent postponements due to COVID-19 and have lost three of their four previous games. However, three of Michigan State’s four conference wins have come on the road, making Jan. 31’s matchup even more crucial for Indiana.

After Thursday's loss, Moren was able to takeaway a number of positives from the Hoosiers defensively, but knows this isn't all that it takes to win in the Big Ten. Against Michigan State on Sunday, Indiana will need a stronger performance from its leader Patberg and the rest of the Indiana offensive attack. 

"I thought we had moments defensively where we were really good, but tonight was just a matter of us not being able to put enough points on the board to win," Moren said.

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