7:00 PM ET, January 21, 2003
Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana coach Mike Davis had been pleading with his team to play with intensity and passion for almost two weeks.His Hoosiers delivered a masterpiece Tuesday night. The Hoosiers (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) used a stout defense, 15 points from backup Marshall Strickland and a 12-2 run in the final three minutes -- with three starters on the bench -- to pull away from Ohio State 69-51. "If you're not willing to fight against a Jim O'Brien team, you're not going to win,'' Davis said. The Hoosiers (14-3, 4-1 Big Ten) delivered most of the blows in a game that had the feel of an old-time Big Ten basketball game. Tom Coverdale played most of the night with a bandage on his chin and needed six stitches to close the gash afterward. There was pushing, shoving, tempers flared several times and the Assembly Hall crowd flustered Ohio State's leading scorer, Brent Darby. While baskets came at a premium, hard knocks did not, and the result was a contentious game on nearly every front. Indiana forward Jeff Newton drew a technical foul on a dead ball and Ohio State's Nick Sherman was ejected for running onto the court during one of several skirmishes between Coverdale and Darby. Public address announcer Chuck Crabb even tried to temper the crowd at one point by asking it to "focus on the positives.'' That didn't happen. Instead, the Hoosiers dug deep with Newton and George Leach in foul trouble and leading scorer Bracey Wright out with a nerve injury in his back. It was the third straight game he's missed, and the Hoosiers won all three at home. A.J. Moye had a season-high 13 points and eight rebounds, while Newton finished with 12 points and Leach 11. "I think that tells you a lot about this team,'' Davis said. "It shows how deep we are.'' And, perhaps, how tough they're getting. The Hoosiers limited Ohio State (8-8, 1-4) to a season-low 17 points in the first half, when the Buckeyes were a miserable 6-of-26 from the field. Darby even missed his first eight shots. Ohio State was only slightly better in the second half, finishing with a shooting percentage of 26.8. Darby had 18 points, all in the second half, to lead the Buckeyes. "We're just inept right now with our offensive efficiency,'' Buckeyes coach Jim O'Brien said. But in a slugfest that included 47 fouls and 54 free throws, grit mattered. If the Buckeyes thought things were going to get easier in the second half, Indiana made certain they didn't. Coverdale and Darby got into a shoving match early in the second half, bringing Sherman, several other Buckeyes and Davis to the opposite side of the court. Sherman was ejected. Later, after Coverdale and Darby went at it again, the officials met with both coaches, then sent Coverdale over to chat with Davis. Coverdale smiled, Davis patted him on the back of the head and sent him back into the game. "I think it's what happens every time we play each other,'' Coverdale said of his match with Darby. "It's just two competitors going at it and wanting to win.'' Things started getting rougher in the second half. Three minutes after the Coverdale-Darby fracas, the Hoosiers led 37-27 when Leach was called for his fourth foul with 14:21 to go. Newton drew a technical, also his fourth foul, on the play. Darby and Zach Williams hit all four free throws to make it 37-31. Williams finished with 12 points. Indiana countered with a 17-5 run to make it 48-36, but Ohio State responded with a 9-2 run to get to 50-45. "When you think with three minutes to go in the game, and it's a two possession game and as badly as we were shooting, we had to be doing something right,'' O'Brien said. Then the Hoosiers delivered the knockout punch, a late 12-2 run, that led them to their 10th straight win at home and gave Davis something to smile about. "If we continue to play with passion and intensity, I think we're going to be all right,'' he said.
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