February 10, 2008

D.J. Whites out the Buckeyes

COLUMBUS - The sellout crowd at Value City Arena was expecting to see a whiteout when the visiting Hoosiers came to town. Unfortunately for everyone in attendance it was a D.J. White-out instead as the IU big man went for 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Buckeyes (16-8, 7-4) were kept an arm's length away all afternoon and couldn't climb back into a 59-53 loss to Indiana (20-3, 9-1).

The leadership nucleus of the Buckeyes had a rough game with Jamar Butler (4 points), Othello Hunter (6 points) and David Lighty (0 points) combining for 10 points on 5-16 shooting on the afternoon. Ultimately it was not just one thing that cost the Bucks but a combination of things compounded that Indiana was the superior team on Sunday afternoon.

"We just didn't have what we needed against a team like Indiana," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "They are a great team. We weren't capable of making plays that we needed to make. We played better the second half but it wasn't enough."

The Hoosiers were coming off of a quick turnaround after playing Illinois into double overtime on Thursday night but were able to look fresh and have a solid gameplan for what the Buckeyes were going to bring to the table.

"There were three points that started with Butler," Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "We knew we had to keep (Othello) Hunter off the offensive glass, make sure there was always a man on Butler, and get defensive rebounds. We knew we couldn't give them two and three shots."

Things didn't start off on the right foot with the Buckeyes falling to an early six point deficit off of a pair of threes by Gordon. Ohio State chipped away at the lead with long range shooting by Jon Diebler off the bench as well as an Evan Turner three to tie it at 12 a piece.

Kosta Koufos found range with the short range jumpers but still struggled to get a handle on the ball as the Bucks tried to work the ball down low to him. Ohio State took the lead at the 10-minute mark off Butler jumper but that would be the only lead of the half for Ohio State.

Ohio State had little answer inside for D.J. White who outworked the Buckeyes on the boards and had several follow slams that the Buckeyes had no answer for. The Indiana senior had twelve points and ten rebounds in the first half including five on the offensive glass and proved to be Ohio State's first half nemesis.

"D.J (White) is a tremendous player," Koufos said. "He's a senior and a leader on that team and I give him all the credit in the world for coming out here tonight and doing what he did. He's a strong player so in the future we just have to come harder at big guys like that."

After spotting the Hoosiers an eight point lead in the first half Ohio State came out hot in the second half and would cut into the IU lead. Koufos and Butler would each hit threes and a Turner free throw would cut the lead to two at 31-29 but just as soon as Ohio State cut into the lead the Hoosiers came roaring back.

"We came out in the second half and I was pretty pleased with the way that we started the second half and kind of regained the momentum a little bit," Matta said.

Indiana went on a 9-0 run to widen the lead back to 11 points and seemingly had the Buckeyes back on the ropes. The Buckeyes would make another push late in the game behind Diebler's long range shooting and would have it cut to three points at the 5:44 mark after Turner converted on one of two free throws.

The Buckeyes just couldn't seem to get over the hump though and had several opportunities to close the lead in the final minutes but a costly Diebler turnover at with 43 seconds left in the game proved to be the back breaker. On a day where little went right the Buckeyes even had a hard time fouling Indiana in the closing moments with two fouls to give and saw 13 second bleed off the clock.

"It was one of those deals where you are saying, 'If we can just tie it or get the lead here,'" Matta said. "I think it changes the complexion of the game... We weren't able to push it over the edge."

There was obvious frustration on the face of the Buckeyes after the loss knowing that the team had several chances to cut the lead to two or one point late but it wasn't meant to be.

"Not all our shots were falling so we put extra pressure on our defense to hold," Diebler said. "We did a good job of rebounding but when you can't convert offensively you can't win games. At the end they made the plays they needed to and we didn't."

But the slow start didn't help the Buckeyes who shot 33-percent from the field and Matta made sure his team knew that the lack of energy wasn't going to get it done.

"He said in the first half that we didn't come out with enough energy," Diebler said. "I think they were more energetic than we were and that is why they got the lead. I think we had a couple of lapses there where we were not rebounding out of our possessions. We just didn't get it done."

Matta took a little bit more of a spiritual approach to the possible energy drain that plagues this team from time to time.

"I don't want to sound like I am some Buddhist," Matta said. "You get a feel, an internal feeling and I am not trying to be a psychologist here… I think a lot of times that we need, which is not a good thing, we need something good to go well for us early to ignite us. We have got to find ways when that doesn't happen to still stay in it."

With only seven more games left in the regular season the Buckeyes need to take some quick steps if they are going to find Nirvana and step number one starts in Evanston on Wednesday night against the Cats.

Stats Leaders
Scoring
Ohio State - Koufos 18, Diebler 14, Turner 9
Indiana - White 21, Gordon 15, Crawford 8

Rebounds
Ohio State - Koufos 9, Hunter 6, Turner 5
Indiana - White 13, Crawford 6, Ellis 4

Assists
Ohio State - Butler 6, Turner 3
Indiana - Crawford 7, Ellis 2


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