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Scouting Notes: Ohio State



Indiana basketball vs Ohio State
A deep dive into Ohio State and some of the challenges it could give the Indiana basketball program in Saturday's matchup. (Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball returns to Assembly Hall for its first game of 2024 — a matchup against a surging Ohio State team.

Ohio State comes in at 12-2 overall in the seventh season of the Chris Holtmann era. The Buckeyes rank 22nd in the country with an offensive efficiency rating of 115.8. Defensively, they rank 56th overall with an efficiency rating of 97.9. Overall Ohio State is rated 29th in the KenPom ratings.

Here is a deep dive into some of the challenges Ohio State could give the Indiana basketball program.

Key Players

Ohio State is led by sophomore guard Bruce Thornton. Thornton is a terrific lead guard who can do just about everything. Scoring wise, Thornton’s game starts as a slasher. He has a terrific frame at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds and loves to draw contact any chance he gets — currently averaging 5.9 free throws per game. His ability to get into the paint opens up his perimeter game, where he’s shooting 37.3 percent on two made 3s per game. Most of his 3s will come off of the dribble but he has the ability to spot up on the wing as well. He’s more than just a scorer though and has done a phenomenal job orchestrating the offense. He currently has a 4.29 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is second in the Big Ten and fifth nationally. His turnover percentage is the third-best in the Big Ten. Indiana basketball needs to match Thornton’s physicality with its own, but it’ll be a difficult cover with his ability to draw fouls.

In the backcourt with Thornton is another sophomore in Roddy Gayle. Gayle is an athletic perimeter player who can be both on and off of the ball. Gayle has great pacing as a secondary ball handler and does a great job at using screens to get into the middle of the defense where he has a variety of moves to create his own shot. Gayle is a legit three-level scorer as he’s shooting 39.5 percent on 3.2 attempted 3s per game. Most of his action comes in the mid-range, however. Gayle’s ability to score from around 15-feet is terrific. While he can make plays for teammates, he has a high turnover rate, ranking second in the Big Ten in turnovers. Indiana needs to turn Gayle into a passer and force him out of the paint.

Jamison Battle is a big wing who is playing like a stretch 4 for Ohio State. Battle is known for his shooting and this year he’s been lights out from three. Battle is shooting 44.7 percent with three made 3s per game. 60 percent of his shot attempts this year come from three. Battle can play on the ball but most of his work will be on spot up opportunities. He’s not going to be extremely effective when he’s forced to create his own shot off of the bounce. Indiana needs to force him into being a slasher and use some physical play to disrupt his rhythm.

While Zed Key doesn’t start, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19.1 minutes a game. Key is a physical front court player who uses his size and strength on both ends of the floor. Offensively, his work is in the paint — as he’s no real threat to play on the perimeter. Key is a terrific rebounder on the offensive glass and gets most of his work from rebound put-backs.

Felix Okpara is the starting center and Okpara is best on the defensive end of the floor. The 6-foot-11 big man averages 2.2 blocks per game and is second in the Big Ten and ninth-nationally in block percentage. He also ranks third in the conference in defensive rating (88.7) as his length, size and athletic ability are extremely disruptive as an on or off-ball defender. Offensively, Indiana needs to keep Okpara off of the offensive glass. Ohio State will use Okpara on the block occasionally where he has the ability to face up or use his length to score over defenders.

Coach Q&A: Mike Woodson previews Indiana basketball matchup with Ohio State

Key Tendencies

Ohio State is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation who will be patient and look for great shots. As a team ,it starts with the perimeter players as Ohio State is shooting 38 percent from three as a team and making 8.5 3s per game. Whatever they don’t make, they’ll rebound. Ohio State averages 12.6 offensive rebounds per game and ranks 31st nationally with an offensive rebounding rate of 35.8 percent. The Buckeyes aren’t going to make too many mental mistakes and will limit turnovers to a lot of dead-ball TOs. Indiana basketball needs to find a way to find some consistent perimeter defensive play and limit the straight line drives for Thornton and Gayle. If not, you’ll see a lot of ability to finish through any contact, or IU’s over helping on the drive will give ample opportunities for OSU on the perimeter.

Defensively, Ohio State is going to make it tough anywhere on the floor. It is limiting opponents to just 40.9 percent overall from the field as well as 30.7 percent from three. Again, the Buckeyes won’t be a team that fouls a lot, especially tacky fouls on the wings. Because of OSU’s ability to hedge and recover and play terrific on-ball defense, assists are hard to come by. Opponents are averaging just 9.4 assists per game with an assist on roughly 38 percent of their field goal attempts — ranked eight nationally.

Indiana basketball needs to match the physicality first and foremost. Then, it’s about finding ways to get to the free throw line. Because of OSU’s ability to make life difficult in two-point field goal range, finding ways to create easy offense is critical. Indiana needs to be ready for a full 40-minute battle, however. Because of Ohio State’s toughness, this will not be a game that Indiana will be able to lift its foot off of the gas pedal in. The Buckeyes roster is made up of tough, physical and high-motor players — all areas that have given Indiana fits this year.

Projected Starters

G – Bruce Thornton (Sophomore; 6-2, 215)

Stats: 17.4 ppg, 4.3 apg, 37.3% 3pt, 1.4 spg

G – Roddy Gayle Jr (Sophomore; 6-4, 210)

Stats: 14.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 39.5% 3pt

G – Evan Mahaffey (Sophomore; 6-6, 200)

Stats: 3.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.4 spg

F – Jamison Battle (Senior; 6-7, 220)

Stats: 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 44.7% 3pt

F – Felix Okpara (Sophomore; 6-11, 235)

Stats: 6.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 bpg

Key Notes

  • Ohio State is off to its best start in five seasons at 12-2. A win Saturday would be the best start for the Buckeyes under head coach Chris Holtmann and the best since the team won its first 15 games of the 2013-14 season
  • Bruce Thornton’s 4.29 assist-to-turnover ratio is second in the Big Ten and fifth nationally.
  • Jamison Battle leads the Big Ten in 3s attempted, 3s made and 3pt percentage
  • One of the two starting backcourt players have led OSU in scoring in all but two games this season
  • Ohio State has made 10 3s in six games this year
  • IU leads the all-time series 110-88 but OSU has won six of the last nine

SEE ALSO: NBA Draft analyst reveals pro comparison for Indiana basketball center Kel’el Ware

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.