Buckeyes Eager to Pick Up Tempo at Indiana
By Brandon Castel
Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta said Tuesday that the Big Ten has become a “pick-and-roll” league.
Teams like Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State look to hold the ball and limit possessions in an attempt to level the playing field (or court) with more talented teams like OSU, Michigan State and Illinois.
Even Wisconsin likes to slow things down to a pace that results in outcomes like their 54-48 win over Michigan earlier this season, but not everyone in the Big Ten is content with low scoring basketball games.
Although they are just 9-13 on the season with a 3-7 record in conference play, Indiana will look to push the tempo Wednesday night as they welcome the 13th-ranked Buckeyes to Assembly Hall in Bloomington (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network).
“They’re a team that tries to get the ball out in transition, which we like to do as well. It will be a little bit opposite of what we’ve played against the last couple games,” Matta said.
“Trying to get our guys ready for transition has been fun for them.”
The Buckeyes (18-6, 8-3 Big Ten) are coming off a 68-58 win over Iowa Sunday in Columbus but are only two games removed from hanging an in-conference season-high 85 points on Minnesota in a 22-point victory over the Gophers.
They are second in the conference in scoring defense at 60.8 points allowed this season, but captain David Lighty said the Buckeyes would prefer to get out and run on offense.
“I don’t know about Dallas (Lauderdale), but I do,” Lighty said in reference to his larger, less mobile teammate who was positioned to his right during interviews Tuesday.
“I like to get up and down. He might get a little tired, but we like to get up and down. We like to run, that’s what we do.”
Because of that, Matta said he expects to use more of Jeremie Simmons and P.J. Hill off the bench Wednesday in a game that will feature more possessions and more running than many of the team’s recent contests.
The Buckeyes racked up 79 points on the Hoosiers in their last meeting back on Jan. 6. It was Evan Turner’s first game back from injury, but it was Jon Diebler (21) and William Buford (16) who did the bulk of the scoring for Ohio State in their 25-point win in Columbus.
Although they won that game easily despite only eight points from Turner in 20 minutes, Matta warned his team to expect a different Indiana team when they face Tom Crean’s group the second time around.
“Indiana is a team that is obviously playing great basketball at home. They’ve got certain guys that in their wins at home have made significant threes,” Matta said of a team that beat Minnesota 81-78 in overtime in Bloomington back on Jan. 17.
“As the season goes on every team gets better. They’re not the team you played the first time so you have to watch the film and listen to what coach tells you. Be ready to attack them and not let them attack you,” Lighty added.
Despite being ninth place in the conference standings, Indiana is sixth in the Big Ten in scoring at 69.4 points per game this season. That number would be even higher if the Hoosiers weren’t ninth in field goal percentage (.425) and last in assist-to-turnover ratio. They are shooting nearly 35 percent from behind the arc as a team this season, the sixth best percentage in the Big Ten, and they gave the Buckeyes a battle last year in Bloomington.
“I expect them to come out ready and attack us. Last year it was a shootout. I wish I got to play that game,” said Lighty, who missed the entire Big Ten season with a broken foot.
“It was high-pace, a lot of possessions, a lot of points being scored. They play pretty well at home, so I expect them to come out with a lot of energy so we’ve got to be ready.”
Ohio State won that game a year ago 93-81 thanks to 29 points from Turner, 24 from Buford and 21 from Diebler, but they trailed 39-37 at the half before outscoring the Hoosiers 56-42 in the second half.
Asked if playing in an arena with as a rich a history as Assembly Hall would have any effect on the Buckeyes, Lighty called it “just another gym” and Lauderdale said, “Maybe my freshman year I was in awe, but I’m going in there like I’ve got a job to get done and that’s what I’m going to do.”
As for Matta, he had a different perspective on those championship banners hanging in the rafters.
“I don’t honestly look around when the game gets going, but I think the great thing you have there is the banners hanging in there, an Ohio State graduate put them in there,” he said in reference to former Indiana coach Bob Knight, who played for the Buckeyes on their 1960 national championship team.
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