Indiana Basketball Preview: Hoosiers look to bounce back against Ohio State

Indiana Basketball will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. 

Indiana v Nebraska
Indiana v Nebraska / Steven Branscombe/GettyImages
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The Hoosiers are coming off a 17-point loss to Nebraska on Wednesday night as Big Ten play resumed. It was a lackluster performance for Mike Woodson’s squad, as they lost to the Cornhuskers for the first time since the 2018-19 season. Nebraska was ahead for most of the game, with their largest lead reaching 22 points with 5:23 left.

Indiana was once again punished from beyond the arc, surrendering 12 three-pointers that matched Nebraska's season-high. The Hoosiers also struggled mightily to take care of the ball, committing a whopping 19 turnovers, which led to 27 points for Nebraska. Sixth-year point guard Xavier Johnson returned for Indiana but provided little to no production. Sophomore Kel’el Ware also returned from a one-game absence, contributing 20 points on 75% shooting and 10 boards. 

On Saturday night, the Hoosiers will face an Ohio State team that has impressed in their first 14 games. After a disappointing 2022-23 regular season, the Buckeyes ended last year on a positive note, winning three straight games in the Big Ten Tournament and reaching the semi-finals. They have been able to ride that momentum into this season, beginning the year with a 12-2 overall record.

Ohio State's sole two losses came against #15 Texas A&M by seven points and on the road against Penn State by three points. The Buckeyes' best win came in late November, defeating #17 Alabama by a score of 92-81. Most recently, they narrowly defeated Rutgers in Columbus, 76-72. Saturday night’s matchup in Bloomington will be Ohio State's first true road game of the year. 

Ohio State is currently ranked 29th in KenPom, the fifth-highest-rated team in the Big Ten. After Wednesday night’s loss, the Hoosiers fell to 93rd. The Buckeye’s 12-2 start is their best in five years. A win on Saturday night would mark the best start in the Chris Holtmann era at 13-2.

After struggling from behind the arc to start the year, Ohio State has begun to heat up and is now second in the Big Ten at 38% from downtown. They have hit at least 10 three-pointers in their last three games. The Buckeyes are efficient from the free throw line, shooting 74.9%, which also ranks second in the conference. Strong on the glass as well, five of Ohio State's players average over four rebounds per game. 

Offensively, the Buckeyes are led by a trio of double-digit per-game scorers. Sophomores Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. compose their very strong starting backcourt. Senior Jamison Battle brings experience and lights-out three-point shooting.

Thornton averages 17.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per contest. He averages just over one turnover per game and is third in the conference with a 4.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. Gayle Jr. averages 14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and has shot nearly 50% overall from the field. He recently scored 32 points in Ohio State’s overtime win against West Virginia. Battle, one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal this past offseason, averages 14.9 points per game and a phenomenal 44.7% from behind the arc. 

Mike Woodson hopes his squad will learn from their mistakes and bounce back after an embarrassing loss to start the new year.

“That game won't ever go unnoticed,” Woodson said. “Every game we play, win or lose, you learn from it, and we spent a lot of time watching the Nebraska game because that's how it shouldn't be. You just can't overlook it. Hell, it was a good ass-whooping. And you try to correct the things that you can correct, and then you go out on the floor and you go to work and get ready for the next opponent and try to clean up the things that happened in the game that you didn't play to particularly well.”

Indiana will need to come out with more energy and fight in order to take down a very solid Ohio State team. Taking better care of the ball and defending the three-point line will put the Hoosiers in a good position to come away with the victory. Indiana will look to get more production from their guards, especially Xavier Johnson, as he continues to ramp up his play after returning from injury.

Wednesday night was an uninspiring effort, but a Saturday night game in a rocking Assembly Hall might be just what the Hoosiers need to get back on track.