Indiana men’s basketball hopes to avoid its third straight loss Tuesday night, but they face another tough task going to Ohio State (18-5, 9-1).
It’s a battle of first year coaches with one having far more success than the other. Chris Holtmann has the Buckeyes playing hard defensively and had won 13 of its last 14 games before dropping its first conference game Thursday against Penn State from a Tony Carr buzzer beater.
No one expected the Buckeyes to be this competitive under Holtmann in year one, but his team has bought in and has had monumental success thus far.
For Indiana, they battled at home against No. 3 Purdue, but ultimately lost and were rewarded with one day off and a trip to the second best team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes haven’t played since losing to the Nittany Lions at home on Thursday so they’re well rested and ready to go.
Here’s what to watch for…
Keita Bates-Diop Is Legit
Ohio State redshirt junior Keita Bates Diop is the front-runner for Big Ten player of the year at the moment, averaging nearly 20 points and almost nine rebounds per game.
He has driven the Buckeyes all season long in wins and losses; even against Penn State, Bates-Diop still put up 25 points while hitting a few clutch shots along the way.
Not only can the 6-foot-7 veteran bully opponents down low on the block, but he can also step out and knock it down from beyond the arc shooting 3-pointers at a 38.1-percent clip this season. Bates-Diop has attempted 118 3-pointers this year, which is the most on the team, and six more than guard CJ Jackson.
Indiana’s 3-point defense has been skeptical all season; worst in the Big Ten allowing teams to shoot nearly 38-percent from deep. The Buckeyes shoot about 36-percent from 3-point range each game. Against Purdue, Indiana did a good job closing out against the nations leading 3-point percentage team holding them to just under 28-percent for the game.
The Hoosiers will have to bring a similar approach against the Buckeyes with Juwan Morgan guarding the perimeter, like he did on Vince Edwards, but still being cautious of the dribble drive of Bates-Diop at the same time.
Buckeye Veterans Buying In
In addition to Bates-Diop, four of the top five scorers for Ohio State are all upperclassmen with junior CJ Jackson turning in consistent guard play scoring 13 points and dishing out 4.4 assists per game. Also graduate transfer Andrew Dakich has held his own off the bench coming in and providing key minutes for the Buckeyes.
In comparison to Indiana’s upperclassmen, Juwan Morgan is the leading scorer at 16.3 points per game and Robert Johnson is averaging 14 points a game, but then there is a substantial drop off to Josh Newkirk averaging just eight points a game.
Not only are the Buckeyes buying in on offense, ranked 22nd in adjusted offensive efficiency in the nation, but they’re all in on defense as well. Ohio State is 27th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom allowing just 0.95 points per possession.
This is a major step up from where they were under Thad Mata last season ranked 99th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Hoosiers are still a work in progress under Archie Miller as they have made minor strides thus far. IU is down from allowing 1.016 points per possession last year to 1.009 points per possession currently this year.
How To Beat Ohio State
Ohio State is a very good team, but they aren’t a great team and are vulnerable to the upset at home like we saw Thursday against Penn State. All five of their losses this season have been quality losing to Gonzaga, Butler, Clemson, North Carolina and Penn State.
But if you want to beat the Buckeyes, you have to defend well and not get out-defended either.
In the five losses this season, Ohio State has allowed an average of 80 points per game and only scored 68 points per game in those games as well.
The only team that didn’t score more than 79 points against Ohio State when beating them this year ironically was Holtmann’s ex-team Butler, winning 67-66 in overtime in the PK80 Preseason invitational. But even then, the Bulldogs got the job done because they defended well.
Indiana can defend. We’ve seen baby steps this season under Archie Miller and holding an explosive Purdue offense to 74 points on Sunday was impressive, but IU will also have to find its offense against this swarming Buckeye defense.
Will it have to be the Juwan Morgan and Robert Johnson show for Indiana on offense? More than likely yes, but they’ll need help from supporting members also as Ohio State is holding opponents to just 67 points per game.
On the flip side, Indiana will need team defense in order to contain Bates-Diop, Jackson and the rest because they’re averaging nearly 78 points per game and when they shoot the lights out, they’re very difficult to beat.