Men's basketball: Buckeyes brace for raucous Assembly
Deshaun Thomas has played many basketball games for Ohio State in venues that make it difficult to think straight.
For him, the noise in Indiana’s Assembly Hall reverberates as in only one other place he has been: Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse.
“The crowd gets into it, and it’s hard to hear,” he said. “It kind of throws off your focus a little bit.”
Ohio State plays its final road game of the season tonight at second-ranked Indiana, which not only will be trying to win the Big Ten championship outright for the first time in 20 years but also saying farewell to three seniors who helped restore a proud program from the stain of NCAA probation.
It’s not an ideal situation for the No. 14 Buckeyes, but at least they will have something tangible to focus on in the cacophony.
“They’re not the only ones playing for something,” guard Aaron Craft said. “We’re playing for something, too.”
For the second year in a row, Ohio State enters the final week of Big Ten play with a chance to win a share of the title but needing help to do it.
Last year, the Buckeyes had to win their last two games, at Northwestern and Michigan State, and also have Indiana take down Michigan State to gain a share. It happened.
This year, they have to win their last two games and have Michigan take down the Hoosiers on Sunday in Ann Arbor.
“We did it last year at Michigan State,” Thomas said, “and we feel like we can do it again at IU.”
Indiana has lost once at home this season, to Wisconsin on Jan. 15.
The Hoosiers defeated Ohio State 81-68 on Feb.10 at Value City Arena, a game in which the Buckeyes gave up a season high in points.
“I thought they played really, really well in terms of making shots and moving the basketball. They had a good balance of transition and getting the ball inside,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “We weren’t ever able to get control on defense and take away what they were trying to do and make them go to a second option or a third option.”
The loss was among three in four games for the Buckeyes before they regrouped to win their past three.
“There was definitely a stretch this season where we went a little solo and we weren’t really connected on defense,” Craft said, “and it really only takes one or two guys to really mess up the entire possession, especially playing great teams like Indiana.
“I think we have a better awareness (of each other now). We’ve played them once, so I think we have a better feel for them as a team and individually.”
Ohio State has lost all five road games it has played this season against ranked teams.
“One thing Coach talked about in practice is it’s going to be loud there, so we’ve got to keep our composure and keep fighting,” Thomas said. “We’re in a race to get the Big Ten title. If we can get a nice little upset, it’d be great.”