IU (20-3, 8-2) lost Thursday night to Illinois to a buzzer beater. Ohio State (17-5, 7-3) lost on Tuesday in overtime to Michigan on a questionable no-call by the referees. Both teams are desperate for a win and the chances of winning the Big Ten drop to zero for whoever losses the game.
Indiana hasn't had much time to shore up the problems that plagued the team down the stretch against Illinois. IU has rebounded well in the past following losses this season, but this will be an awfully quick turnaround coupled with an extremely hostile environment and a very good Buckeyes team.
Ohio State boasts the second best defense in the Big Ten, just behind Wisconsin. The Hoosiers are averaging 83.3 points per game while OSU is holding opponents to just 58.1 points. It will be a match-up of strengths for the two teams.
Indiana only attempted 14 free throws against Illinois, far less than they normally do. The Hoosiers have to get to the free throw line more often against Ohio State. Coach Thad Matta only runs an eight man rotation, so getting his team into foul trouble puts IU at a distinct advantage. Matta doesn't like to go deep into his bench and getting one or two starters into foul trouble early would be huge for IU. Add to this that the Buckeyes have a tendency to be over aggressive on defense, with a tendency to foul, and IU could spend most of the game in the bonus.
Indiana is going to have to do a better job of finding Cody Zeller on the low block. Zeller was was having a very good night against Illinois, but down the stretch the rest of the team failed to get him the ball for high percentage shots. Zeller has a distinct advantage height wise over OSU's probable starters. He needs to be a force through which the offense can flow and getting him going early will make it a long day for the Buckeyes. Zeller should be able to use his quickness to get into the paint for quick baskets against the heavier and slower front court of Ohio State.
- Deshaun Thomas vs Victor Oladipo. Thomas is by far the Buckeyes best scorer and is averaging nearly 20 points per game. Oladipo had his worst game of the season against Illinois. He gives up a little bit of size to Thomas, but is going to have to find his A-game again to try and limit Thomas and make him seem like a volume shooter. Oladipo should be able to get Thomas in foul trouble as well and use his speed to blow past Thomas on isolation plays.
- Aaron Craft vs Yogi Ferrell. Craft is averaging nine points per game and 4.5 assists. The vast majority of Craft's points come from lay-ups as he uses his quickness and screens to cut to the basket. Ferrell is going to have to keep Craft out of the lanes and defend him in the same way that he defended Michigan's Trey Burke. Ferrell will also need to stay out of foul trouble to keep IU's offense running smoothly.
This is about as close to a must for Indiana as they will have all season. A win will put IU firmly in the drivers seat of the Big Ten for at least the next week. IU has an insanely difficult close out to the Big Ten season and maintaining control of the conference is more than likely going to take some help.
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