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IU humbled at Ohio State

Turnovers, lack of fighting spirit hurt the Hoosiers.

Thursday, January 7, 2010 - 11:26 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Indiana's Tom Crean coached from a squat, from his feet, from his seat. He paced, applauded, shouted, as if inevitability could reverse with just the right word, the right lineup, the right mind-set.

It didn't, of course. Not at Value City Arena for Ohio State's Wednesday night massacre.

“We were not tough enough,” Crean said in the aftermath of the 79-54 loss. “We were not aggressive enough on either end of the court. We have the capability of being better than that. Our leadership wasn't there. We did not have that fighting spirit we had last week against Michigan.”

Reality hurts, humbles, humiliates when you're too new to the road (first true road game), certainly this Ohio State venue, when turnovers mount (a season-high 24) and Buckeye shots fall (46.2 percent shooting, 42.1 percent on three-pointers) and nothing is sure but this season-worst defeat (previous worst - 89-71 to Mississippi).

“We played like a team in its first road game,” Crean said, “and that's disappointing.”

Six days earlier IU (7-7 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten) had nine turnovers in its win over Michigan. It had that many in the first 10 minutes Wednesday night.

“So many were unforced,” Crean said.

“That bothers me. That's leadership as well. When somebody takes the ball from you, that's one thing. When you give them the ball … we work on those things every day. It's simple basic footwork. Do it right. It's such a process and one we have to go through.”

The big pre-game question - would Ohio State superstar guard Evan Turner play? - was answered in a big way.

He started.

Oh, no.

Turner had missed six straight games with a back injury, a huge loss given he rated as the Big Ten's most versatile player, if not its most dominant one (18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists). But that wasn't his role against the Hoosiers. He was a 6-7 facilitator, a distributor, a leader toying with the defense of Jeremiah Rivers (IU's best defender) and Devan Dumes (IU's feistiest). He totaled eight points, five assists and four rebounds in 20 minutes.

“I'm happy to be back,” he said. “It's boring to sit on the couch.”

Added Ohio State coach Thad Matta: “He was good. His size helps us on the defensive end. He appeared to be comfortable and confident. “

Added Crean: “They're a Final Four-caliber team with him.”

With Rivers on Turner Crean put 6-foot Jordan Hulls on 6-6 Jon Diebler, Ohio State's second leading scorer. Hulls harassed, hounded, hurried. Diebler delivered, defended, distributed. The final total - Hulls two points, four rebounds, two assists, four turnovers; Diebler 21 points, three steals, three rebounds.

“It was nice to have all those open looks,” Diebler said, a reference to the advantage of Turner's return.

Guard Verdell Jones carried IU's offense with 22 points. Forward Christian Watford added 11

That wasn't nearly enough.

“We came out sluggish,” Jones said. “We had no energy. We had good practices. We were very energetic, but we didn't translate that to the game.”

Ohio State (11-4, 1-2) played with on-the-brink ferocity, for good reason. A third straight loss, especially at home, might create a Big Ten hole too big to overcome. That wasn't going to happen. Not on this night. Not against the still-too-young Hoosiers.

“It's a great game to come back on,” Turner said. “I'm glad we won. It's great to have confidence going into a rough environment like Minnesota.”

Added Matta: “One of my favorite lines from the movie, “The Blues Brothers,” is it's good to put the band back together tonight. Our defense was good. That was one of the big things felt we needed to step up.”

IU's lone lead came on Rivers' layup 47 seconds into the game with no Buckeye within eight feet of the basket. Matta called an instant timeout - “We weren't ready to play” was the message - and the Buckeyes went for the jugular. In the next nine minutes IU had one basket, one assist and eight turnovers and fell into a 15-6 hole.

Consecutive Ohio State three-pointers produced a 23-8 lead, a Crean timeout and then another turnover. That was part of the Buckeyes' 16-0 run that buried the Hoosiers. IU trailed 38-20 at halftime - it needed four points in the last six seconds to do that - and never got close to challenging in the second half.

“We were clicking on all cylinders,” Diebler said. “We were a lot more aggressive.”

IU has three days to regain its aggression before hosting Illinois (10-5, 2-0)

“We don't have enough guys who have had success at this level and pace to keep everybody going in the right direction,” Crean said. “It's not being physical enough with screens and block outs. It's losing their man on defense. It's not communicating on screens. Anybody can get guys to huddle up, but are they doing the million and one things in a game that exhibit what real leadership is?

“We have got to build through it. We're not an aggressive enough team yet. I'm not going to accept it.”