BOZICH | Indiana rolls Ohio State; Is return to AP Top 25 next? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Indiana rolls Ohio State; Is return to AP Top 25 next?

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Indiana moved into a first-place tie in the Big Ten by defeating Ohio State Sunday. Indiana moved into a first-place tie in the Big Ten by defeating Ohio State Sunday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – They said Ohio State was one of the hottest college basketball teams in the country, winners of seven in a row.

Ask John Calipari. The Buckeyes beat Kentucky by seven on a neutral court in Brooklyn last month. Ask Chris Collins. The Buckeyes rolled into Evanston and beat his Northwestern squad by nine for OSU’s third straight Big Ten victory this week.

One problem. As well as Ohio State has been playing, Indiana has been playing better.

The Hoosiers showed it Sunday in Assembly Hall, thumping Ohio State, 85-60. The Hoosiers led by 36 (56-20) before losing focus for about eight minutes and watching the Buckeyes cut the lead to 22

"This is a great win for us," said IU forward Troy Williams after the game to CBS.

Three of Tom Crean’s players delivered excellent efforts – Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Thomas Bryant.

Credit Bryant, the freshman center, with a double-double – and holding his ground against Ohio State around the rim. He contributed 18 points and 13 boards.

"He is growing," Crean said.

Williams reduced his turnovers and increased his efficiency. Credit Williams with 23 points and six rebounds. More important stat: Only one turnover in 27 minutes. 

“Valuing the ball, I did better with that tonight," Williams said.

"The key is that as happy as Troy is about his lack of turnovers, I’m like 20 times happier," Tom Crean said.

Ferrell did not overshoot and led the Hoosiers in assists. Ferrell made four of six shots from distance, finishing with 16 points and six assists.

The victory, IU’s ninth straight, moved the Hoosiers (14-3, 4-0) to a first-place tie with Maryland in the Big Ten. It was also Indiana’s ninth straight victory since IU’s 20-point beatdown at Duke on Dec. 2.

In that game, the Blue Devils made 57 percent of their two-point field goal attempts as well as 11 of 24 three-pointers. IU’s defense in that game was so lackluster that even ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, typically Mr. Sunshine, wondered what was going on?

Ohio State did not shoot the ball that cleanly Sunday. In fact, they shot only 28 percent in the first half, totaling more turnovers (11) than field goals. The Buckeyes finished the game at 39.3 percent. IU outrebounded the visitors, 50-31. IU also averaged nearly 1.2 points per possession.

For Indiana, it was the kind of victory that raised two questions:

Are the Hoosiers a more efficient and difficult team to play without James Blackmon Jr., the sophomore guard who will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery in Alabama Tuesday?

And, will Indiana enjoy a return to the Associated Press Top 25 when the latest poll is released Monday afternoon?

It’s too soon to say IU is better without Blackmon. Remember: IU only beat Wisconsin by one on Tuesday. In their first two games without Blackmon, both on the road, the Hoosiers were seven points better than lowly Rutgers and 10 better than Nebraska.

There will be games when Indiana misses Blackmon’s scoring, especially his three-point shooting. His presence as a shooter creates more space for drivers like Ferrell and Williams.

But defensively, the Hoosiers do appear to be more active and relentless.

As for the Top 25, odds are Indiana will have to wait one more week. They only earned one vote – at No. 24 – last week. Teams rarely vault from nowhere into the Top 25.

There will be time to make another move next week. The Hoosiers are off until Saturday, when they visit Minneapolis. Richard Pitino’s Minnesota team has lost its first four Big Ten games, including a 25-point home defeat against Northwestern Saturday.

"We really needed to get better over the last couple of days," Crean said. "We feel like we did that. We needed to show on both ends and I think we did. We did a great job of playing through the paint."

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