No. 13 Ohio State is still rounding into form after a three-week layoff due to COVID-19 issues.
After an 87-79 overtime win at Nebraska, the Buckeyes will face another Big Ten road test on Thursday when they face the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, Ind.
“Really it’s kind of the great unknown how this is going to affect us,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I do think there’s a conditioning element that you lose when you don’t have the chance to play games and you don’t have the time and the conditioning that comes with playing games. I think that’s natural. There will be some of that.”
Against Nebraska, Ohio State needed 35 points from freshman guard Malaki Branham to pull out the win. Standout Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell scored just 10 points on just 2 of 14 shooting.
“E.J. has got to get his legs back,” Holtmann said. “So does Justin (Ahrens) and so do a couple of other guys.”
Ohio State has won this season with offense, ranking fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (76.7 points per game), third in 3-point field goal percentage (39.7 percent) and second in field goal percentage (48.9 percent). Liddell ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 19.6 points per game, while Justin Aherns ranks ninth in the league in 3-pointers made at 2.4 per game.
Indiana (10-3, 1-2) returns home after a disappointing 61-58 loss at Penn State. The Hoosiers went just 4 of 17 from 3-point range in the loss and were outrebounded 39-29. During one second half stretch, Penn State was able to grind nearly two minutes off the clock by grabbing four straight offensive rebounds.
“You’ve got to have some juice coming down the stretch and during that two-to-three-minute span, we couldn’t even rebound the basketball,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “That’s something that, if you are in a close game, you’ve got to come up with it.”
The Hoosiers are returning home, where they are 9-0 this season. Indiana has won seven of those nine games by a margin of 10 points or more.
“It’s going to be very important that we win at home,” Woodson said on his radio show Monday night. “That was the first thing when I took his job is that we’ve got to establish a home-court advantage. We’ve got to win at home.”
Indiana will be seeking another big game from forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who ranks fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (19.3 points per-game), fifth in rebounding (8.2 rebounds per-game) and first in blocks, with 3.1 per-game.
The Hoosiers could also get a boost off the bench from the return of sophomore swingman Trey Galloway, who has been out since suffering a broken wrist on Nov. 17 against St. John’s. Galloway has been practicing this week and will be a game-time decision, Woodson said.
The Hoosiers will be facing a ranked team for the second time this season. On Dec. 8, Indiana lost at No. 22 Wisconsin 64-59, blowing a 22-point first-half lead.
–Field Level Media