THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Victor Oladipo scored a career-high 26 points, Cody Zeller added 24 and Christian Watford 20 to lead No. 1 Indiana back from a demoralizing loss to a huge road win in beating No. 10 Ohio State 81-68 on Sunday.
The Hoosiers (21-3, 9-3 Big Ten), who dominated the second half, were coming off a stunning collapse that might have caused the undoing of many teams. On Thursday night at Illinois, the Illini went on a 13-2 run to close the game, with Indiana turning the ball over late and then allowing an uncontested layup at the buzzer of a 74-72 shocker.
Less than three days later, they more than rebounded with a signature win in hostile territory.
Deshaun Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer and an Indiana native, had 26 points for Ohio State (17-6, 7-4), which dropped two games back of the Big Ten leaders with seven games left, severely crimping their chances of extending their string of three years with at least a share of the conference title. Aaron Craft added 16 and LaQuinton Ross 11.
Indiana, now 3-0 against Top-10 teams this year, stayed in lock step with the leaders in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are now tied with Michigan State (9-2) in the Big Ten standings. Michigan and Wisconsin are next at 8-3, followed by Ohio State at 7-4.
The nation’s longest run of avoiding a losing streak also ended. Ohio State had gone 121 games without losing back-to-back outings. The second loss of that two-game skid in January 2010 was also against Michigan, and the Buckeyes got back on the winning track against Indiana.
The Hoosiers shot 53 percent from the field, the highest by any Ohio State opponent this season. Kansas hit 51 percent of its shots from the field in the Jayhawks’ 74-66 win in Columbus on Dec. 22.
The Hoosiers — mostly their triumvirate of Oladipo, Zeller and Watford — always seemed to come up with a big play when most needed.
Ohio State trailed 43-39 after Thomas hit all three attempts after he was fouled behind the arc by Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers’ freshman point guard, who went to the bench with his third foul.
But Oladipo spun and hit a 12-footer in the lane and then tossed in a 3 from the right wing to push the lead to nine points.
Each time the Buckeyes would come up with a basket or defensive stop, Indiana would counter. Watford’s 3 with 9:24 left made it 62-46 and completely deflated a capacity crowd of 18,809.
After Ross got a bucket in traffic, Watford flipped in another 3 for a 67-54 lead.
Ohio State got as close as eight points in the final minute but never really threatened. The crowd booed loudly after Craft was called for an offensive foul, sending him to the bench with his fifth, with 41 seconds remaining.
Oladipo then closed out the game with four free throws for his career best.
With big contributions from Oladipo (14 points), Zeller (12) and Watford (10), the Hoosiers led 41-33 at the break.
Ohio State had used a 12-3 run over a span of almost 5 minutes to take a 16-14 lead. But Indiana began to assert itself with Oladipo scoring in transition and on 15-foot jumpers, with Zeller slashing past whomever of the three centers Ohio State tried on him and Watford also hitting timely shots.
Ahead 24-23 after Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s second straight running jumper in the lane, the Hoosiers pulled away.
Zeller drove as Evan Ravenel picked up his second foul (to join Williams on the bench), hitting both foul shots. After Smith’s miss, Watford tossed in a 3 from the right wing to make it 29-23.
Oladipo caught an alley-oop pass from Jordan Huls, hesitated with the ball in mid-air, and then laid it in on a reverse layup for a 35-29 lead. The next time down the court, Zeller failed to muscle in a shot and Ohio State’s Thomas tipped the ball out. Oladipo caught in and threw down a thunderous dunk.
The Hoosiers hit half of their shots (16 of 32) in the opening half and, after not shooting a free throw for almost 16 minutes, ended up hitting 6 of 7.
Thomas had 13 but frequently forced up shots against tight defense provided by Watford and others.
Ohio State came in having won seven of the last eight meetings with Indiana.
The Buckeyes fell to 8-11 all-time against the No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll, having beaten a top-ranked Indiana the two previous meetings before the Hoosiers came up big on Sunday.