BLOOMINGTON — Possession by possession, Indiana withstood the physical challenge of No. 11 Ohio State on Saturday.
With an early spark from sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee and some big shots late from senior guard Devonte Green, the Hoosiers pulled off their second win of the season against a ranked team, knocking off the broad-shouldered Buckeyes 66-54 before 15,456 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Green scored a team-high 19 points, while Phinisee had 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Another unsung hero was junior center Joey Brunk, who helped limit Ohio State’s 6-foot-9, 270 pound big man, Kaleb Wesson, to 11 points and 10 rebounds on 3-of-11 shooting. Wesson scored just one basket in the paint as Brunk led a committee of defenders who guarded him one-on-one in the post.
“For the first time that we’ve ever played Ohio State, we were able to hold serve one-on-one,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “He has mauled us for two years. Their team has mauled us really for two years, being able to run offense or score or rebound.”
Overall, Indiana held Ohio State to just 32.7 percent shooting overall and 21.4 percent shooting in the second half. IU was active defensively throughout the game with 11 steals and four blocked shots and finished with 14 points off 16 Ohio State turnovers.
The defense carried over from down the stretch Wednesday, when the Hoosiers rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Northwestern.
“We got our head out of the mud after Wednesday,” Miller said. “We were fortunate to win Wednesday. But we got our attitude, our heads together, and guys were ready to go today. Probably as good as a defensive game as we’ve played overall. If you look at the numbers, we did some really good things there.”
Phinisee made his first start and gave Indiana an early boost, going 3-for-3 from 3-point range to start the game. Phinisee’s third 3-pointer gave IU an early 13-5 lead, and the Hoosiers led 25-16 on a Green offensive rebound and putback off a missed basket with 9:57 left in the first half.
Then Indiana hit an offensive funk, scoring just one point over the next 6:47. Ohio State took advantage, shooting 7-of-12 from 3-point range in the first half to take a 34-31 halftime lead. The Hoosiers played hard enough to take the lead into halftime, but went just 9-of-17 from the free-throw line in the first half, which hindered their offensive production.
“They made 3s in the first half, and we missed free throws,” Miller said. “It’s a big defense. Obviously, the free-throw line is so important to us, and we didn’t take care of business making them or our offense would have been a lot more efficient.”
Indiana regained the lead with an 8-0 run to start the second half, going up 39-34 on an inside basket from Brunk with 16:13 remaining. But the lead was short lived. Ohio State went back up 42-40 on a pair of Wesson free throws with 11:43 left.
That’s when Green heated up, scoring 14 of Indiana’s final 26 points. Green’s first 3-pointer of the stretch put Indiana back up 43-42, and his second 3-pointer gave the Hoosiers a 60-50 lead with 2:52 left.
Green was benched down the stretch against Northwestern due to his lack of defensive intensity but bounced back with a better effort and more production on both ends of the court.
“The game never changes,” Green said. “I mean, some days it’s good, some days it’s bad. And you’ve just got to bounce back from the bad ones. So that was the mindset I had coming into today, to the next day and to every day moving forward. I always want to have a better day than the last, bad or good.”
Phinisee was favoring his hip late in the game and needed treatment following the game for another ailment. But with Phinisee and Green both clicking at the same, IU was able to improve to 11-1 at home and 2-1 against ranked teams.
“To play and beat the best, you’ve got to have guard play, and I thought today we had very good guard play,” Miller said. “Rob Phinisee got us going. He was good on both ends of the floor, and then Devonte Green was really good, as well. So you had two guys in the backcourt play today the right way.”
Ohio State (11-5, 1-4) suffered its fourth straight loss and will likely tumble out of the Top 25 next week. Sophomore forward Andre Wesson led the Buckeyes with 15 points, but Ohio State couldn’t sustain its perimeter shooting, going 2-of-14 from 3-point range in the second half.
“Tough second half for us,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Give Indiana credit for making timely shots and defending really well.”