Ohio State Wastes Chance to Break Streak at Indiana
What Ohio State did to extend its losing streak to four games Saturday in a 66-54 failure at Indiana is not something you should try at home.
Or on the road.
Or at a neutral site.
And so the team that housed Villanova at home and North
Carolina on the road is now 1-4 in the Big Ten and searching for all the answers it looked like it had mastered just three weeks ago after a solid win over Kentucky.
"We are really struggling right now offensively," OSU coach Chris Holtmann said. "That's been the story the last four games."
Ohio State shot 33% from the field, 35% from three-point range and 58% from the free throw line, with the 11-of-19 success from there actually worse when considering missed one-and-one front ends and an E.J. Liddell miss he got to try again because of a lane violation, only to miss again.
The Buckeyes lost touch in the second half of a game that Indiana seemed every bit as determined to give away as it did to win.
The Hoosiers made one of their last 17 field goal attempts in the first half, had seven steals to OSU's one and attempted 16 free throws to the Buckeyes' three, but made only half of those.
All that ineptitude cost IU a chance to build on an early 8-0 lead and allowed Ohio State to come back and claim a 31-26 edge late in the half.
That's when the Buckeyes became even more determined than Indiana to give this one away.
They scored three points the final 3:32 of the half and still led by three at the break.
But, oh, they hadn't begun to self-destruct.
OSU greeted the second half by going 10 straight possessions without scoring.
Normally, such atrocious offense proves fatal, but not in this I-don't-want-it-you-take-it affair.
D.J. Carton's three-pointer completed Ohio State's comeback from a 39-34 deficit during its start-of-the-second-half nap to a 43-40 lead with 10:24 to play.
The outcome hung tantalizingly available at that point, there to claimed to right the ship, end the losing streak and perhaps re-route OSU toward Big Ten title contention.
But right now, this team is not tough enough mentally to persevere through difficulty, and it has no reliable player it can count on to order the offense or provide scoring when things get difficult.
The Buckeyes went five more possessions without scoring, lost the lead and then showed only faint glimpses of a heartbeat down the stretch in steadily losing touch.
Carton scored 10 off the bench, but committed seven turnovers and played as if on skates at times, sprawling to the floor and allowing the ball to go out of bounds after a midcourt steal portended a breakaway dunk.
"He's still finding that balance between being aggressive and taking care of the ball." Holtmann said. "That's going to be a constant focus. We're going to have to keep working with him on that."
Duane Washington has justifiably landed in Holtmann's doghouse for unforced turnovers and inexplicable shot selection, sitting long stretches of both the first and second halves after giving the Buckeyes nothing.
C.J. Walker and Kaleb Wesson, two of the team's most experienced players, each shot 3-of-11 on a day that cried out for veteran leadership.
Luther Muhammed shot 1-of-6 on the heels of going 0-for-6 at Maryland and was inconsequential defensively.
Only senior Andre Wesson delivered under duress, exceeding expectations with 15 points and seven rebounds.
But it is going to be a long, long season if the elder Wesson, whose specialty tilts toward intangibles, has to be counted on for such significant scoring and rebounding.
Indiana did nothing special to win this game.
It made just 20-of-36 free throws and shot 50% from the field, going long stretches without scoring and abiding OSU's failures to let the Buckeyes stay close long enough to recover.
But Ohio State never did, and simply gave away a road win with an uninspired performance that belied the fluidity it exhibited throughout its hot start.
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