BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Marshall Strickland prepared himself for a crash landing Saturday—and he made it look good, too.
With 9.8 seconds left and the score tied, Indiana’s 195-pound guard let 260-pound Terence Dials run over him as he tried to set a pick. Strickland crumbled to the court, then bounced up, made two free throws with 5.7 seconds left and stripped Ohio State’s Matt Terwilliger on the final possession to give No. 16 Indiana an 81-79 come-from-behind victory over the 18th-ranked Buckeyes.
“There was no acting,” Strickland said, smiling. “I’m feeling it now. I felt all 260 pounds running over me out there.”
Strickland saved his award-winning performance for when it mattered most. He tied up J.J. Sullinger on a rebound, giving Indiana possession with 25.3 seconds left. And when the Hoosiers (10-2, 2-0) called time-out to set up a last shot, coach Mike Davis called on Strickland to set the pick that sent him tumbling.
Strickland, a senior, didn’t even give it a second thought as the Big Ten’s best free-throw shooter handed Ohio State (11-1, 1-1) its first loss of the season.
Strickland finished with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists, leading the Hoosiers to their sixth straight win.
“Marshall played 40 minutes and he was the best conditioned player out there. He never got tired,” Davis said. “He was great.”
Only Marco Killingsworth, who had 26 points, topped Strickland’s effort.
But as good as Strickland made the next-to-last play appear, Dials thought it was more act than foul in a rugged game that featured 43 fouls and 50 free throws.
“I knew the cross screen was coming, I just tried to get over it and I hit him and they called a foul,” Dials said. “I couldn’t avoid it.”
When Dials did avoid fouls, he was terrific. He finished with 25 points and eight rebounds. Je’Kel Foster and Ron Lewis each added 13 points, and Foster had six assists.
The Buckeyes entered Saturday as one of six unbeaten teams in Division I, and for the first 17 minutes, they looked every bit the part against the nation’s best shooting team.
They manhandled the Hoosiers offense, limiting them to 38.7 percent shooting in the first half and bolted to a 38-21 lead—Indiana’s largest deficit of the season.
But the Hoosiers got themselves righted in the final three minutes, carried that over to start the second half and shot 65.0 percent in the final 20 minutes to rally.
“The thing that hurt us was foul trouble, it crushed us,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “They’re a prolific shooting team, and if we left our assignments for a second…”
The Hoosiers made them pay.
Indiana’s rally began with a 9-0 run near the end of the first half, which got them within 40-32 at halftime.
Robert Vaden kept it going when he opened the second half by hitting a 3-pointer. Strickland followed that with back-to-back 3s, and then Killingsworth put in a short jumper and completed a three-point play to give Indiana its first lead, 46-45 with 17:11 left.
The Buckeyes answered with three straight 3s to retake a 56-49 lead before Indiana charged back again. This time, it was a 9-1 run that ended with Lewis Monroe’s second 3 to give Indiana a 66-64 lead.
That’s when Dials asserted himself.
“You just want to go out there and leave everything on the court,” Dials said. “I think we showed the country today that when we play our best, we can play with anybody in the country.”
He scored 12 of the Buckeyes next 15 points, twice giving Ohio State the lead, the second time on a putback with 1:52 to go.
But Monroe’s free throw with 1:31 left tied the score at 79, and then it was Strickland’s stage.
“I told our guys there is no way we are losing this in our house,” he said.
Strickland made sure the Hoosiers didn’t. When Dials missed a short jumper with 25 seconds left, he wrestled the rebound away from Sullinger and forced a jump ball. Then he set the pick on Dials, crashed to the ground and hit both free throws.
Finally, after Matta called a play, the Hoosiers defended it perfectly. The inbound pass went to Terwilliger and when he turned, Strickland jarred the ball loose and heaved it into the air as the buzzer sounded to preserve the win.
“I had set a screen on him earlier and he plowed right over me,” Strickland said. “So I felt if he did it again, I was going down. I knew he’d try and body me down.”