After slipping up at Illinois earlier in the week, Indiana once again looked like the No. 1-ranked team in the county on Sunday. It came at the expense of Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Junior Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 26 points, sophomore Cody Zeller chipped in with 24 points and eight rebounds, and the Hoosiers proved to be too much for No. 10 Ohio State during an 81-68 victory at Value City Arena.
Indiana native Deshaun Thomas scored 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds to keep the Buckeyes in the game as long as possible. Ohio State's one-man attack could not overcome Indiana's triple-option attack of Oladipo, Zeller and Christian Watford, who added 20 points in a critical bounce-back win for Indiana coach Tom Crean and the Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten).
"I wouldn't trade Cody," Crean said after Indiana's first road win over a Top 10 in 13 years. "And if you polled all the coaches in the country, I think most of them would like to have Cody. Same with Victor Oladipo."
Indiana's three stars combined for 70 points and 22 rebounds against OSU. They shot a combined 22 of 32 from the floor and were 21 of 25 from the free throw line.
"Victor, Cody Zeller, and Christian Watford played as well as a triangle of three guys as you could get," Crean added, "because it was at both ends of the floor."
Ohio State (17-6, 7-4) hung around for most of the first half, despite not having an answer for Zeller or Oladipo in the paint.
"We thought we had our minds right. We felt good coming off that Michigan game, even though we lost," said Thomas, the Big Ten's leading scorer. "They came in and played their game. They were relaxed and didn't let any distractions get to them."
The Buckeyes got little-to-no offense from anyone but Thomas. Point guard Aaron Craft scored 16 points and LaQuinton Ross added 11 off the bench, but Ohio State was just 3 of 13 behind the arc.
They Buckeyes fell behind 11-4 in the early going after Sam Thompson missed an alley-oop dunk that lead to a run-out layup for Indiana. But Ohio State would respond with a fury.
Thomas knocked down a wide open 3 in the corner, Craft scored a layup and Thomas drained another 3, this time with a hand in his face, to give Ohio State a 13-11 lead with 11:35 to play first half.
Thomas turned and howled in the direction of Indiana's bench at the end of Ohio State's 9-0 run, but Indiana would quickly go back on the offensive. It started with a Watford 3, but Oladipo was the difference-maker for the Hoosiers in the first half.
Known for his defensive prowess, the Maryland native led all scorers with 14 points in the first half. He was 5 of 7 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line as Indiana went on an 18-10 run that turned a one-point deficit into a six-point lead on another 3 by Watford.
Oladipo and Zeller would score the final 12 points of the half for Indiana, as the Hoosiers took a 41-33 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes came out with good energy early in the second half, but they simply could not sustain any positive momentum.
"We didn't have what we needed today to win this game," Matta said after his team's second loss in less than a week. "We didn't do some of the things we had to in order to win. We have to finish through contact better."
Thomas cut Indiana's lead to four with 16:28 to play in the second half, but that was as close as the Buckeyes would get. Oladipo scored five quick points to put the Hoosiers back on top by nine, and a layup by Zeller gave the Hoosiers a 12-point lead with 13:39 to play.
"Ohio State is the real deal," Crean said. "Aaron (Craft) sets the pace for OSU and tries to set the pace for other teams. We couldn't let them set the pace. It was an incredibly tough environment and I thought our team handled it well."
Indiana extended its lead to as many as 16 on a 3 from Watford. Ohio State would cut the lead to eight in the final minute of the game, but Indiana was not about give this one away like they did in a buzzer-beating loss in Champaign on Thursday night.
Notes: The loss ended Ohio State's streak of 121 games without consecutive losses, the longest in the nation. The last time Ohio State lost back-to-back games was Dec. 31, 2009 (at Wisconsin), and Jan. 3, 2010 (at Michigan). ... With one steal Sunday, Craft cracked the top 10 all-time in Big Ten history for career steals. His 215 career steals is already an OSU school record. ... Indiana has now won seven of its last nine Big Ten road games dating to last year. ... The Hoosiers had not won a road game against a Top 10 team since beating No. 10 Notre Dame 86-78 in South Bend on Dec. 5, 2000. It was their first Big Ten win over a Top 10 team on the road since a 73-66 win at Iowa in 1993.