Some athletes, not all of them, will tell you, that beating a conference rival on the road on their senior night is much better than winning at home in front of your own fans. Ohio State had some avenging to do after losing to Indiana earlier in the season, and enjoyed a big game from Aaron Craft as they returned the favor.
With the win, Ohio State turned the Indiana – Michigan game this weekend into a whole of a lot more important; it simply put the Big Ten title up for grabs, with Indiana potentially having to share the conference title as their flaws of terrible defensive rebounding and shot blocking were too obvious as the Buckeyes got that one quality road win they had to put on their resume in order to be regarded as a team to look out for to reach the final four.
Now, Ohio State have to root for Michigan to beat Indiana this weekend. Not something normal, considering the rivarly between the Buckeyes and the Wolverins. But that was the situation Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas put the team in, now 12-5 in conference play.
Craft was everywhere – on defense, on offense. The Hoosiers were stopped to only 58 points, their lowest scoring production of the season. That’s for a team regarded as the number one offense in the nation; Ohio State held them to 39.6% from the field, causing 12 turnovers, and making life very hard for anyone not named Cody Zeller.
Craft finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, making a few big baskets when it mattered the most, leading Ohio State to the 67-58 win in Bloomington, crashing and destroying Senior night for Indiana. Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes in scoring with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
We were just more active tonight. There was no secret what they wanted to do. They wanted to go inside with Zeller and Watford. But it was just more activity and we felt like we knew where they were going to be diving from. Kind of a do both type game. You had to do it and then take away the 3s. Whatever else goes on outside the floor, it’s a basketball game. Where we were a couple weeks ago and where we are now, that just makes us appreciate this a little more.
And truly, it probably came down to playing harder. There wasn’t anything surprising about the way both teams played. Indiana didn’t try anything new, but couldn’t get the kind of contribution their used to from Oladipo against a smothering defense. Ohio State didn’t do anything they haven’t been doing all season; they simply executed very well on offense when compared with other big games on the road this season, and got the right amount of stops and big baskets from Thomas and Craft to come away with the win.
Indiana won’t be worried. Nothing new was exposed – their weaknesses remain the same, their strengths, which might be enough to take them a very long way in the tournament, haven’t disappeared. It just changed the view of Ohio State, from being a team that wins against those they should beat and loses to the really good ones, to one that no one should sleep on as the regular season draws to a close.