BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Ohio State has often had problems with the last minutes of halftimes this season.
Saturday night at Assembly Hall, he took it to a whole new level. After questioning everything but the kitchen sink after a decisive road loss to Illinois on Tuesday night, the Buckeyes opened their only meeting against the Hoosiers by putting their best foot forward. They attacked the glass. They were pushing the ball in transition. They brought all the “stuff” necessary to compete in one of the most feared arenas in the Big Ten.
Then everything suddenly disappeared. After shooting within 31-30 with 5:05 remaining, Ohio State limped into the locker room after giving up a 15-0 run that effectively cemented the final result in what became an 86-70 loss.
Just like that, a game that had been close for 15 minutes turned into a comfortable win for the Hoosiers.
“We have to look at those five minutes and figure out what we need to do better,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “I thought our shot selection wasn’t great. It fed part of their transition. I don’t think we had a good execution either side of the last five minutes.
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Trailing by one point, the Buckeyes had three chances to tie the game or take the lead, but they went empty. The final opportunity was a pair of missed free throws from freshman center Felix Okpara with 3:56 remaining.
Indiana then responded by hitting seven of its last eight shots, scoring on eight straight possessions to close out the half. In response, the Buckeyes got a pair of misses from Sean McNeil, a miss from Brice Sensabaugh, a shot from Zed Key blocked by Trayce Jackson-Davis, a missed 3-pointer from Judge Sueing and a turnover from Roddy Gayle.
“The run at the end of the half hurt us in the long run,” Key said. “We can’t give up that many consecutive points. It starts on the defensive side, and the shots weren’t falling, so that doesn’t help either.
Holtmann called timeout with 2:34 remaining to try and stem the tide as a left-handed Jackson-Davis slam dunk made it 37-30. Both Sensabaugh and Key came out empty on the next possession, and Jackson-Davis built on his block hitting a left-handed hook over Key to resume the run. The Indiana forward had six straight points in the run, picking up his own miss on the next possession to make it 42-30.
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“Certainly tried to stem the tide there with the timeout,” Holtmann said. “Maybe he could even have doubled (with another) at the last minute there.”
Instead, the Hoosiers were able to keep the Buckeyes at bay for the duration. Ohio State trailed in double digits the entire second half and got no more than 11 points.
Both teams scored 40 points after halftime.
“It was tough,” McNeil said. “When you give up a run like that on the road, we played them even in the second half, but giving up that substantial amount of points in such a short time, it went from six to 16. We played them even in Part Two. Too many lost points. Cleaned up some defensive stuff. Keep working on the things we are working on and improve.
Adding to the problem: Ohio State went the final 3:56 into the double bonus, but only had Okpara’s two missed free throws to prove it.
“Some of our bad offensive possessions led to the transition,” Holtmann said. “That’s the bottom line. We really didn’t play intentionally enough at that point to get to the line. They were in the double bonus. We missed a few free throws, but we settled for too many jumpers. It was not good of us.
The Buckeyes have now lost seven of their last eight games and are in the middle of the Big Ten game with a 3-7 record. It’s their longest such streak since the 1997-98 team lost 17 straight games to close the season.
“Streaks like this will eventually break,” McNeil said. “One match is enough. We are really making progress in practice. We had two much better practices before this game than in the previous game. It’s just passing through. We will continue to train hard and things will eventually fall into place.
Gene Brown and Tanner Holden play late as Brice Sensabaugh sits
After spending the past few days figuring out what was wrong with Illinois, Holtmann went into the starting lineup he used for six straight games before Key suffered a sprained left shoulder. in the opening minutes against Purdue.
That wasn’t the only change in the rotation. After being an unused backup at Illinois, third-year winger Gene Brown replaced with 17:41 left in the game and Indiana led 50-37. He replaced Judge Sueing, who had just fouled Race Thompson for a three-point play.
While Brown has seen intermittent playing time this season, Wright State transfer Tanner Holden has played a minimum of 5:17 off the bench and hasn’t seen action until he replaces with 5:17 to go.
“We’re trying to find a maybe a bit shorter rotation at this time of year,” Holtmann said. “These two guys have done some good things. I thought Gene played really strong in the second half.
Leading scorer Brice Sensabaugh, who finished with 23 points on 9 of 17 shots, sat out for the final 7:20. He left after the Under-8 timeout with Indiana leading 70-55. He has now led the Buckeyes in points in 12 consecutive games.
Holtmann said he wasn’t trying to send any message to Sensabaugh by sitting him down.
“Brice has done some good things,” he said. “We try to get some playing time for other guys. I just got asked about Tanner and Gene. Then we say we are sitting Brice. We can’t play them all. We try to get these guys to play time in those times and that’s what happens.
Chris Holtmann issued a technical foul
For the first time this season, the Ohio State coach was whistled for a technical foul.
He came on with 7:50 remaining in the first half and the Buckeyes trailed 23-21 after Ohio State’s Roddy Gayle was called for a foul on Kaleb Banks as he scored in the paint. On the previous possession, Ohio State’s Bruce Thornton had failed to call on a similar play, and Holtmann was livid on the sidelines.
“That was exactly what I meant: I thought it was the exact same call,” Holtmann said. “I didn’t like the call on (Gayle) to start with and I thought the same thing happened on the other end and they missed it. I thought it was really inconsistent. I let Rob (Riley) know.
The technique ended up helping the Hoosiers into a six-point possession. Along with Banks’ bucket, Tamar Bates hit both free throws allowed for technique to make it a 25-21 Indiana lead. Banks then missed the free throw, but the rebound fell into the hands of Sensabaugh, who fanned out to try to corral it, and out of bounds to keep possession for that end.
Malik Reneau then finished with a basket on Sueing to make it 27-21 with 7:38 left in the half.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State’s first-half collapse is insurmountable in Indiana loss