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Buckeyes Knock Off No. 2 Indiana

Indiana came into Tuesday night’s home finale against Ohio State trying to make some history – a win would have given the Hoosiers their first outright Big Ten championship in 20 years.

Aaron Craft had 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in win at Indiana

But, instead, it would be the visiting Buckeyes who made some history of their own.

Holding their hosts to a season-low in points, 14th-ranked Ohio State upset second-rated Indiana 67-58 before a sellout crowd of 17,472 on senior night at Assembly Hall. At No. 2, Indiana is the highest ranked team OSU has defeated on the road in 26 years.

“It was a tremendous night and I am very proud of this basketball team,” said OSU coach Thad Matta said. “We withstood some big runs by Indiana and kind of took the crowd out of it. Guys made some big plays on the defensive end and at the offensive end.

“As I told the team, that was a tremendous team win for The Ohio State University.”

The Buckeyes (22-7, 12-5) kept their hopes of winning a fourth straight Big Ten championship alive, avenging a painful 81-68 loss to Indiana on Feb. 10 in the process.

OSU can get a share of the title for the fourth year in a row if Michigan defeats Indiana and OSU can defeat Illinois on Sunday. OSU also opened the door for Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin to each also earn a share of the crown this weekend. This is a win that should also improve OSU’s seeding for both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

“This is huge, especially with the year we’ve had with all of the ups and downs,” said OSU point guard Aaron Craft, who had 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals in 37 minutes for the Buckeyes. “Given where we’ve been this season, it makes this win special. It makes you appreciate winning and this effort.”

Deshaun Thomas had 18 points and eight rebounds to lead OSU. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native was glad his team avenged its earlier loss.

Ravenel defends Zeller

“The biggest difference was we gave them too much respect at home,” Thomas said. “We know they have three guys who can really score and we gave them too much respect. We were comfortable. This game, we knew we had to compete for what’s on our jersey. We came out and played great defense.”

Meanwhile, Craft was a spiffy 7 of 10 from the field.

“How good was (Craft) tonight?” Matta asked. “A couple of those shots were tremendous. He hit one at the end of the shot clock off the glass.”

Sam Thompson added nine points and five rebounds, while Evan Ravenel and Shannon Scott each came off the bench to have eight for OSU. Ravenel added six rebounds, while Scott chipped in three assists and four steals.

“We had a great pace about us,” Matta said. “Shannon Scott came in and was tremendous. He took some opportunities to score in transition and also milked it down. He and Aaron each had four steals tonight. That’s lethal when you can get them to play like that.”

The Buckeyes won this game with their defense, holding Indiana to 39.6 percent shooting and forcing 12 turnovers (eight on steals).

“We have to give all of our guys a lot of credit,” Craft said. “The first time we played them, we separated as a team. We knew we had to play together offensively and defensively.”

Matta added, “We knew that defense was going to be huge for this basketball team (this year). Rav took a big charge. Amir (Williams) had a couple of big blocks. Shannon had some steals. It was just a great defensive effort.

Craft shoots vs. Indiana

“We were much more active. There was no secret what they wanted to do. They wanted to go inside with Zeller and Watford. It was more activity.”

Center Cody Zeller had 17 points for Indiana (25-5, 13-4), while forward Christian Watford had 12 and guard Jordan Hulls scored eight.

Wing Victor Oladipo, who burned OSU for 26 points in IU’s win in Columbus last month, dealt with foul issues and finished with just seven points in this one.

“Getting him in foul trouble was very helpful,” Craft said. “He came out in the second half and wanted to take over. He started to, but we did a good job of relaxing and settling down and refocusing our defense.”

Ohio State held Indiana scoreless over the final 4:44 of the first half in reversing a 25-21 deficit into a 28-25 halftime lead. The Buckeyes held IU to 33 percent shooting (10 of 30) in the first half. Thompson had nine points in the first half for OSU.

“We came in with the mind-set to control the game both defensively and offensively,” Thompson said. “We had to shoot good shots and get good shots. When we were able to do that, we were able to control the pace of the game.”

Indiana led 25-21 after a Watford three with 4:44 left in the half.

LaQuinton Ross got a layup off a Shannon Scott pass and then hit a turning bank shot. Craft capped the half with a three-point play to put the Buckeyes up 28-25 with 1:08 left in the half.

Thomas with 18 for OSU

“We went 7-0 there in the last four minutes of the half,” Matta said. “One of the things we talked about coming into the game was the first four minutes and the last four minutes of the first half. That’s when they bit us over in Columbus. That was a huge run for us.”

Indiana came out and hit its first six shots from the floor in the second half to go ahead 39-34 with 14:47 left. IU still led 43-40 after a pair of Watford free throws with 13:17 left.

The Buckeyes went on an 8-0 run to go up 48-43. Craft hit an 18-foot jumper and Evan Ravenel gave OSU the lead on a Scott assist in transition. Scott was then fouled and hit a pair of free throws before Lenzelle Smith Jr. had a rebound basket for a 48-43 lead with 9:47 left.

Indiana twice got it down to two, the last time on a pair of Zeller free throws that made it 52-50 with 6:09 left.

Ohio State then exploded for nine straight points to go up 11 – Indiana’s largest deficit of the season.

Craft hit a bank shot to beat the shot clock. Thomas then hit a pair of free throws. After a blocked shot by Amir Williams, Thomas hit a three off a Scott assist. After a Zeller turnover, Scott had a steal and fed it ahead to Smith for a breakaway jam and a 61-50 lead with 3:15 left.

Indiana got it back down to seven at 62-55 as Zeller tipped in his own miss with 2:11 left. But Craft ran the shot clock down, drove Oladipo down to the lane and hit a tough bank shot for a 64-55 lead with 1:38 left.

“We stayed composed and we made some shots when we needed to,” Craft said.

Oladipo then drove and, under duress from OSU’s Williams, missed. Smith grabbed the rebound for the Buckeyes. Smith was eventually fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with 50 seconds left.

IU’s Jordan Hulls drilled a three to cut it to six at 64-58 with 37.3 seconds left. OSU’s Smith then traveled on the inbounds play, giving the ball back to the Hoosiers. But Hulls missed a three on the inbounds play. Thomas rebounded and was fouled.

Thomas hit a pair of free throws with 27.6 seconds left for a 66-58 lead. Scott then swiped the ball from Zeller. Smith was put to the line with 7.8 seconds left, fouling Oladipo out in the process. Smith was 1 of 2 at the line to end it.

Also Notable

* With 18 points, Thomas now has 1,470 in his OSU career. He moved past David Lighty (1,458 points) and into 20th on the school’s scoring list. Next up is Jerry Francis at 19th (1,486 points).

Thomas has been in double figures in all 29 OSU games this year and led the Buckeyes in scoring 19 times.

* This game wraps up ESPN’s nine-week Super Tuesday series featuring Big Ten teams. OSU and Indiana appeared for the fourth time – the most of any Big Ten teams this year. OSU ended up 3-1 and IU was 1-3 in these games.

* Ohio State came into the game 21st in RPI, while Indiana was seventh. The Buckeyes could move up five or more spots after this critical road win.

OSU is now 4-5 against teams currently in the RPI top 25, 5-7 against teams in the top 50 and 7-7 against teams in the top 100. Indiana is now 7-2 against teams currently in the RPI top 25, 7-5 against teams in the top 50 and 10-5 against teams in the top 100.

* Overall, Ohio State is now 76-101 all-time against Indiana. Indiana leads 61-24 in Bloomington. The Buckeyes have won seven of the last 10 overall meetings. Indiana rolled in the teams’ first meeting on Feb. 10 in Columbus (81-68).

OSU is now 9-30 all-time at Assembly Hall, which opened in 1970-71. OSU’s previous wins in Assembly Hall came in 1985, 1991, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Under Thad Matta (since 2004-05), OSU is 11-6 against Indiana. Under Crean (since 2008-09), IU is 2-8 against OSU.

* Ohio State improves to 5-5 this season in road games. That includes wins at Purdue, Penn State, Nebraska and Northwestern and this win and losses at Duke, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

* Indiana is now 17-2 at Assembly Hall this season. The lone previous loss was on Jan. 15 to Wisconsin (64-59).

* Matta’s OSU teams are now a combined 41-51 against ranked teams in his nine years with the Buckeyes. OSU is 3-7 against ranked teams this year with their loss at then-No. 2 Duke on Nov. 29 (73-68), the home loss to then-No. 9 Kansas (74-66) on Dec. 22, the loss at then No. 11-Illinois (74-55) Jan. 5, the home win over then-No. 2 Michigan (56-53) Jan. 13, the road loss at then-No. 18 Michigan State (59-56) on Jan. 19, the road loss at No. 3 Michigan (74-2, overtime) on Feb. 5, the home loss to No. 1 Indiana (81-68) on Feb. 10, the loss at No. 20 Wisconsin (71-49) Feb. 17, the win over No. 4 Michigan State (68-60) on Feb. 24 and this win.

In 13 years as a college head coach, Matta’s teams are a combined 50-60 against ranked teams.

OSU is now 3-4 this year against top-10 teams. The Buckeyes are 65-118 all-time against top-10 teams.

Under Matta, OSU is now 10-8 against top-five teams, including 2-5 on the road. The Buckeyes are 3-3 against top-five teams this year.

Over the last 40 years, OSU is now 5-15 against top-five teams on the road (including 1-2 this year). The last road win over a top-five team was last year’s win at No. 5 Michigan State (72-70, last year on March 4). OSU’s last road win over a team ranked in the top two was at then-No. 1 Iowa on Jan. 24, 1987, at Iowa City (80-76, led by 36 points from Dennis Hopson).

* Under Matta, OSU improves to 46-12 during the month of March. OSU has won its last nine regular season games in March since a 2008 defeat at Minnesota (71-57).

* The Buckeyes will close out their home schedule against Illinois (21-10, 8-9) on Sunday (12:30 p.m., ESPN). The Illini dealt OSU a 74-55 loss back on Jan. 5 at Champaign. Illinois lost at Iowa 63-55 earlier tonight.

Because Michigan State plays Wisconsin on Thursday, the Buckeyes would be guaranteed a top-four Big Ten finish and an opening round bye for the conference tournament with a win over Illinois.

“First and foremost, what’s next for us is Sunday,” Thompson said. “Illinois is a great team. They beat us by about 20 on their home floor. We want to have a great week of practice and come out on Sunday.”

* Click here for the box score of OSU-Indiana.

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