Stifling defense leads No. 14 Ohio State to win over No. 2 Indiana

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Ohio State’s Aaron Craft has been the textbook example of a tough, physical defensive point guard for much of this season. He has been the centerpiece of a defense that is, in turn, the engine of the Buckeyes’ Top 15 attack.

But Tuesday it wasn’t just Craft who was the wrench in the system of Indiana’s offense. Back-up point guard Shannon Scott was the perfect, pesky defensive complement to Craft in Ohio State’s 67-58 road win at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

Craft and Scott had four steals each, including one from Scott that helped to seal the game with under a minute to play. Their combined play helped to hold Indiana to just 40 percent shooting from the floor, nearly 10 percentage points off the Hoosiers’ season average. In addition to shots that went up, Ohio State limited what Indiana’s key offensive pieces could do by denying them the basketball and slowing the offensive attack.

No one player was dominant for Indiana and Cody Zeller, despite having 17 points on the night, could not take control of the game. Victor Oladipo took just six shots. Yogi Ferrell and Christian Watford combined for 7-of-20 shooting from the floor.

While Oladipo was able to affect the game in other ways with six rebounds and two blocks, Craft neutralized him on the offensive end. A National Player of the Year candidate cannot have six shots and seven points in a game against another Top 15 opponent. That is more a credit to Ohio State’s defense than it is a critique of Oladipo, but there was certainly room for the junior to be more aggressive Tuesday night.

The Buckeyes turned that defense into offense, led by Deshaun Thomas’ 18 points and eight rebounds, along with Craft going for 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor. Despite Thomas being less than efficient, defense was enough to fill in the gaps.

And that defense/offense combination ultimately spelled something that Ohio State needed desperately: a quality road win to top off its resume. Ohio State now stays in the race to claim a portion of the Big Ten title, though it would still need Indiana to lose on the road at Michigan on Sunday.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_