There was still a trophy hoisted at the end of the night, and even nets were cut down. The senior night speeches were heartfelt and appreciated, bringing two of the three seniors to tears.
There just wasn’t a victory. And without it, no undisputed claim to the Big Ten championship.
Ohio State must not have gotten the script for the night. They held the Hoosiers to 23 fewer points than Indiana scored in Columbus 23 days ago. The point total was 24 less than an average offensive night for the Hoosiers.
The only time the Hoosiers’ looked like their usual selves offensively was the opening seven-minute stretch of the second half. Indiana made its first six shots of the half, and put 18 points on the board after the lowest scoring first half of the season. The Hoosiers would then proceed to make just five more field goals the rest of the game.
Credit Ohio State. Aaron Craft was a full-blown pest, and that’s meant in the nicest way possible. He’d finish with four steals. He was joined in the defensive fight by reserve Shannon Scott, who collected four steals and scored eight points in 22 minutes of play. Ohio State would pick up seven blocked shots, and outboard the Hoosiers 37-32.
The best news for Ohio State is that it didn’t have to be the DeShaun Thomas show for the Buckeyes to get the win. He’d lead OSU with 18 points, but only connected on six of seventeen shots for the game.
The Hoosiers never found the rhythm that has been such a part of their success this year. Perhaps most telling, and most influential on the outcome, the Hoosiers never found their way to the free throw line. They’d attempt only 13 on the night, with eight of those coming from Cody Zeller. Indiana normally gets to the line to the tune of 27 times per game.
Zeller would pace Indiana with 17 points, but was not the dominant factor he was against the Buckeyes in Columbus. Only Christian Watford would join him in double figures with 12 points.
Indiana still is in control of their Big Ten and number one seed destiny, but now must win in Ann Arbor to prevent anyone else from getting the same trophy the Hoosiers received after Tuesday night’s game. Even with a loss in Ann Arbor, Indiana could be in line for a top seed and an NCAA tournament path routed through Indianapolis. But they’ve now left the door open for others in both races with the loss.
The senior night speeches were in no way subdued by the loss, nor should they have been. And credit to the fans for staying well past midnight on a treacherous driving night leaving Assembly Hall. All three of the trio of Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls, and Christian Watford took time to thank parents, coaches, staff members, and to the Hoosier Nation for sticking with the program.
There was special recognition before the game to Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, who are now members of the 1,000 point club at Indiana. There was no speech for that duo, but consider that perhaps a tip of the cap, an acknowledgement that its likely they’ve played their last games at Assembly Hall as well.
And maybe that’s the element that should give Hoosier fans the most pause as they made their way into the snow early Wednesday morning. Yes the loss was terribly disappointing, but the fact that the Indiana faithful know its the last time they’ll see Watford and Hulls on the floor, and possibly Zeller and Oladipo at the same time, that’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Hopefully, the consolation will be the ability to see them play together just a few miles up the road in Indianapolis. A win in Ann Arbor would accomplish that task on Sunday. If not, let the waiting game begin.