BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana will face another defensive dilemma when it hosts No. 11 Ohio State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (11 a.m., Fox) on Saturday.
On one hand, the Hoosiers will need to contend with one of the best inside players in the Big Ten, junior Kaleb Wesson, who is averaging 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes have perimeter scoring threats capable of breaking out at any time.
Finding the balance of covering the entire floor defensively will be a key for the Hoosiers (12-3, 2-2 Big Ten), who clamped down late in a 66-62 win over Northwestern on Wednesday night. Indiana held Northwestern to just 12 points over the final 12 minutes of the game to rally back from a 10-point deficit.
At 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, Wesson is a load to handle inside.
“It’s amazing to me how much attention that Kaleb draws and just the physicality of the games that he plays in,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “It’s just amazing to me that it’s basketball at some point in time. You feel like you’re watching — you feel like you’re watching (professional wrestling) sometimes in there.”
Ohio State (11-4, 1-3) is entering the game desperate, on a three-game losing streak and in search of a spark. The Buckeyes have slumped from the perimeter of late, shooting just 26.8 percent (19-of-71) from 3-point range over the last three games. Strong perimeter shooting to begin the season helped Ohio State pull off non-conference wins over Villanova, North Carolina and Kentucky.
“They won’t slump against us,” Miller said. “That’s the way you have to think about it. They’re very dangerous, but you have to pick and choose what you’re going to do.”
Indiana will have no shortage of bodies inside to deal with Wesson, as Miller could turn to senior forward De’Ron Davis (6-10, 255) or redshirt sophomore forward Race Thompson (6-8, 228) off the bench to support the starting frontline of junior center Joey Brunk (6-11, 245), freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (6-9, 245) and junior forward Justin Smith (6-7, 227).
That’s a combined 25 fouls to deal with Wesson, whom Miller described Friday as a “singular force.”
“We have a lot of guys that are ready for the challenge and want to play hard and play hard in spurts,” Brunk said. “Someone’s going to be ready to step up for the challenge come tomorrow.”
Miller has challenged his bench players to provide more production after six Hoosiers combined for just five points in the Northwestern win.
“We’re going to have to go with the guys that are playing well,” Miller said.
Turnovers have been another source of frustration for Miller as the Hoosiers have averaged 14.7 turnovers over their last three games.
“The turnovers are crucial right now for us in conference play,” Miller said. “We’re turning the ball over way too much in conference play, and it’s killing our offense. It’s killing runs. It’s killing leads.”
Miller said the Hoosiers will prepare as if Ohio State junior forward Kyle Young is playing. Young, who has sat out Ohio State’s last two games after having his appendix removed following a loss against West Virginia, was listed as a game-time decision by Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann on Friday.
IU is 1-1 against ranked teams this season, with a win over then No. 17 Florida State in early December and a loss at No. 12 Maryland over the weekend. There will be plenty of opportunities for the Hoosiers to face ranked teams in the coming weeks in a loaded Big Ten.
“Every coach right now, you’re just putting your head down, and you’re trying not to get overwhelmed with what our league has become this year,” Miller said. “Ohio State is without question a Final Four caliber team and a team that has aspirations to do a lot of big things within our conference.”