BOZICH | Gritty Indiana holds its place in Big Ten scrum by beat - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Gritty Indiana holds its place in Big Ten scrum by beating Ohio State

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Troy Williams helped Indiana beat Ohio State with 15 points and 12 rebounds. (Jamie Owens photo.) Troy Williams helped Indiana beat Ohio State with 15 points and 12 rebounds. (Jamie Owens photo.)
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – This was a game where you could see anything you wanted to see from Tom Crean's Indiana basketball team.

Do you believe the Hoosiers can outperform what the wise guys are predicting and play with anybody not named Wisconsin in the Big Ten?

You can say that. The Hoosiers added to their road win at Nebraska by defeating No. 22 Ohio State, 69-66, at Assembly Hall Saturday. Consider this: Indiana has three wins against Top 25 opponents -- and the other 13 teams in the Big Ten have combined for four.

Crean's guys did it on an afternoon when they started the game as if they were still feeling sorry for themselves for getting popped at Michigan State Monday. It was 9-2 Buckeyes before you could say, “Beat Oregon, Urban Meyer.”

You're not sold on the Hoosiers yet? You still think they're too careless with the ball and turn too many late-game inbounds plays into torturous adventures?

You could say that, too. Indiana lost the ball 15 times, five times in the first four minutes. They had the Buckeyes down 61-51 with about 3 ½ minutes to play but could not officially exhale until Ohio State freshman D'Angelo Russell, a Louisville native, missed a reasonably open three-point shot on the game's final play.

You say that's not fair. You saw growth from the Hoosiers against the Buckeyes – from Crean's bench, on the glass and at winning time.

Right again. It was Indiana's subs, led by Nick Zeisloft, Collin Hartman and Emmitt Holt that put the fiber in the Hoosiers' early comeback, bringing energy and defense.

Get this: On a day when Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Indiana's only legitimate big man, played eight minutes because of foul trouble, the Hoosiers still outrebounded Ohio State, 48-39.

The Hoosiers made their final 10 free throws --- and scored their last nine points at the line. James Blackmon made five. He was followed by Yogi Ferrell, who converted four in the final 21.9 seconds.

Now the Hoosiers are 2-1 in a league where Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that has not lost a conference game after 11 days of play.

Ken Pomeroy's formula projected an Indiana loss at Nebraska. The Hoosiers won by five. Pomeroy and Las Vegas tilted toward Ohio State Saturday. Indiana won by three. The Hoosiers have now defeated three teams – SMU, Butler and Ohio State – that were ranked when Indiana played them. They're 12-4, scrambling to make their way into those mock NCAA Tournament brackets.

Next?

Penn State, Tuesday at 7 p.m., in Assembly Hall. A come-from-ahead loss to the Nittany Lions last season is a defeat that kept Indiana from playing any post-season basketball.

Several Indiana players deserved special mention. The first is Troy Williams.

On Monday he played like a guy who needed to watch most of the second half while sitting next to Crean. So that's what he did. He did not score a point. He turned 17 minutes into one rebound.

“He didn't like (getting benched),” Crean said.

It showed. Against Ohio State, Williams played with energy and tenacity, leading the Hoosiers with a dozen rebounds. He also scored 15 points. At least two of his dunks were candidates to make their way to ESPN's SportsCenter Saturday night.

Some people have looked at the way that Williams can fly and compared him to Victor Oladipo, the IU player taken second in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Here is a better comparison: Scottie Pippen, the former Chicago Bulls' wing. Why? Because Williams is 6 feet 7 and has arms that reach from here to Terre Haute. This was Williams' second double-double this season. The first was against Butler, the last time Indiana beat a ranked team. The Hoosiers look their best when Williams slashes the way he slashed through the Buckeyes.

For Williams, the next assignment is to follow a double-double with another double-double –without being benched by Crean. Why did Williams follow his zero points, one rebound game with 15 and 12 Saturday?

“I was out of it and just didn't have any edge to me,” Williams said. “I decided that's never going to happen again with me and I'm not going to let my team down again.”

“Because he was embarrassed by the way he played,” Crean said. “He's got a lot of internal pride.”

So does Blackmon.

At halftime, Blackmon had two points. He took three three-point shots and missed all three. Crean subbed him out of the game twice in the first 12 minutes of the second half. Blackmon wrapped a towel over his head and sat on the bench. He looked like a non-factor.

Remove the towel.

Over the final 5 ½ minutes Blackmon was essential to this Indiana victory. He made a layup. He threw a laser pass that Williams converted into a dunk. He made a three-point play. And then four more free throws. Blackmon scored nine of his 18 points in the final 5 ½ minutes.

“We came here to get our edge back, our swagger back,” Blackmon said. “We just went hard in practice and it happened tonight in the game as well.”

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