COLUMBUS, Ohio – Did Indiana do enough to salvage its No. 1 ranking?
Was Sunday’s 81-68 victory at No. 10 Ohio State enough to negate last Thursday’s Illinois meltdown?
That debate will be settled Monday afternoon, when the polls come out. For now, consider the No. 1 Hoosiers (21-3 overall) have tied No. 12 Michigan State for first in the Big Ten. Both are 9-2.
IU forward Cody Zeller learned his less-than-aggressive lesson with 24 points. He was 8-for-11 from the field and added eight rebounds. He shot just six times at Illinois.
Teammate Victor Oladipo added a career-high 26 points along with eight rebounds. Christian Watford had 20 points and six rebounds.
Ohio State (17-6,7-4) was led by Deshaun Thomas’ 26 points and seven rebounds. The former Bishop Luers standout had six points above his Big Ten-leading average. Teammate Aaron Craft fouled out with 16 points.
The Hoosiers finally broke through at Ohio State, which had won 67 of its last 71 home games over the past four years. They hadn’t won in Columbus since 2008. It was also their first road victory over a top-10 team since beating Notre Dame in 2000
IU shot 53.1 percent for the game against one of the Big Ten’s best defenses, including 58.8 percent in the second half.
IU controlled the first half, just as it had three days earlier at Illinois.
The key question -- could it win the second half?
The answer, as it turned out, was absolutely.
IU opened by making sure Zeller wasn’t the forgotten offensive man. He often got the ball outside with the green light to drive his man. The result -- 12 points and a team-leading eight shots in the first half.
Watford also was active early with 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers.
But it was Oladipo, as has so often been the case this season, setting the tone. He drove his way to 5-for-7 shooting and 14 points while adding five rebounds.
The Hoosiers took early advantage to surge ahead 11-4. After Ohio State rallied for a two-point lead, IU finished strong for a 41-33 halftime advantage.
The Hoosiers shot 50 percent from the field, had a 20-16 rebound edge and committed just four turnovers.
Ohio State was led, as usual, by Thomas. He had 13 points.
IU methodically extended its lead to 53-41 with 13 minutes left. With six minutes left, the lead was 15. Value City Arena was quiet as it has rarely been.
This time the Hoosiers would not blow the lead.