Bloomington, IN (Sports Network) - The second-ranked Indiana Hoosiers can clinch the Big Ten Conference regular-season title on Tuesday night, as they play host to the 14th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at Assembly Hall.
Ohio State (21-7) has stepped up its play in recent weeks with wins in four of its last five games, including a 63-53 victory at Northwestern on Feb. 28. The Buckeyes' recent surge, combined with the fall of a few other squads, has allowed them to forge their way into a four-way tie for second place along with Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin, all at 11-5 in conference, with plenty still to be decided in terms of Big Ten Tournament seeding with two games left in the regular season.
Indiana (25-4, 13-3) relinquished its top spot in the latest AP poll to Gonzaga after suffering a 77-73 defeat at Minnesota last Tuesday, but it was able to bounce back nicely with a 73-60 triumph over Iowa on Saturday night. The Hoosiers are 17-1 at home, and this is the final game being played at Assembly Hall this season.
Indiana went into Columbus on Feb. 10 and handed the Buckeyes an 81-68 defeat, improving its lead in the all-time series to 101-75. Ohio State had won seven of the previous eight meetings.
The Buckeyes suffered a scare late in their game against Northwestern, as they trailed by one with just four minutes remaining, but they got their act together and finished the contest on a 15-4 run to come out victorious. Leading the way in the triumph was Lenzelle Smith, Jr., who shot 6-of-11 from 3-point range on his way to a season-high 24 points. Deshaun Thomas added 19 points and seven rebounds, and Shannon Scott served as the team's primary playmaker with eight assists.
Ohio State has been excellent at both ends of the floor this season, scoring 70.0 ppg on 45.3 percent efficiency from the field while holding opponents to less than 60 ppg, and its efforts are usually paced by Thomas. The 6-foot-7 junior leads the Big Ten in scoring with 19.8 ppg, and he leads the squad in rebounding as well with 6.1 boards per contest. Smith, Jr.'s latest outburst allowed him to join the double-digit scorers' club with 10.3 ppg, while Aaron Craft brings his style of gritty play to the backcourt with 9.4 ppg, 4.4 apg and 1.9 spg.
Despite shooting less than 39 percent from the floor the last time out, Indiana was still able to take care of business against Iowa by shooting 29- of-42 from the free-throw line and holding the Hawkeyes to an equally- lackluster 38.2 percent field goal shooting. It was just another day at the office for Cody Zeller, who tallied 22 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Kevin Ferrell logged 19 points and five assists, while Victor Oladipo tacked on 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Hoosiers own the nation's second-highest scoring offense, pouring in 81.9 ppg on a lofty 49.4 percent accuracy from the field, and their stout defense allows them to net in excess of 20 ppg more than their opponents. Zeller is in the midst of an All-America-caliber campaign with 16.5 ppg (on 57.3 percent field goal shooting), 8.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg and 1.2 spg. Oladipo (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 spg) is also extremely efficient, draining greater than 63 percent of his field goal attempts. Christian Watford (12.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Jordan Hulls (10.7 ppg) both make 3-pointers at greater than a 48 percent clip, and Will Sheehey adds a spark off the bench with 9.8 ppg.