COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—If Greg Oden was worried about playing his home state Hoosiers, it sure didn’t show.
The freshman center scored a career-high 21 points, teammate Othello Hunter had 14 and both provided key defensive stops down the stretch to help No. 6 Ohio State beat Indiana 74-67 on Tuesday night.
Daequan Cook added 12 points, Ron Lewis had 10 and Mike Conley Jr. had nine points and 10 assists for the Buckeyes (12-2, 1-0), who overcame 12-of-22 3-point shooting by Indiana (9-4, 0-1) to improve to 10-0 at Value City Arena and spoil Hoosiers coach Kelvin Sampson’s first Big Ten game.
“I was a little nervous. It was a big, physical game, and Coach (Thad Matta) told us it would be really tough,” said Oden, who teamed with Conley to lead Indianapolis’ Lawrence North High School to three consecutive state championships.
The outcome wasn’t decided until the closing minutes, when Ohio State turned up the defensive intensity and turned blocked shots into baskets.
“We made key shots at the end and got some big stops on defense during that time,” Matta said. “Indiana held the ball a little bit and wanted the tempo their way, and we had to keep guys’ minds right, not getting frustrated.”
In the conference debut for Ohio State’s highly regarded recruiting class, the two tallest of the five newcomers sparked the Buckeyes down the stretch.
With the 7-foot Oden on the bench after picking up his fourth foul with 6:13 remaining, the 6-9 Hunter gave Ohio State a defensive presence in the low post by blocking two shots by D.J. White.
Hunter, a junior college transfer, followed up the first block with a dunk as the Buckeyes, without Oden on the floor, added four points to their lead to go up 67-60.
Armon Bassett made two free throws with 2:48 left to bring Indiana within 67-62, and Oden returned to the game. His two free throws with 1:19 left made it 72-64. Roderick Wilmont’s 3 brought Indiana within five points, but Oden dashed the Hoosiers’ hopes when he emphatically blocked a layup by Bassett.
Freshman Joey Shaw led Indiana with a career-high 16 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Bassett was 3-of-4 on 3s and scored 13 points, and Lance Stemler went 3-of-5 beyond the arc and had 11 points.
White had 11 points and eight rebounds, but was only 3-of-14 from the field as Oden and Hunter, who combined for all of Ohio State’s seven blocks, harassed him into tough shots.
White said Oden and Ohio State’s interior defense only accounted for part of his problems, believing his shots still should have dropped.
“He’s 7 feet, but I had my shots and I need to finish around the rim,” White said. “Greg did alter my shot some, but I just missed.”
Oden was 6-of-11 from the field and 9-of-10 on free throws despite having to shoot left-handed at the line as his right (shooting) wrist continues to recover from surgery in June to repair ligament damage.
“He looks good left-handed,” Sampson said.
Hunter was 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 at the line. The size of Oden and Hunter, plus the quickness of Ohio State’s backcourt, enabled the Buckeyes to have a 13-point edge at the foul line—24-of-35 to 11-of-11 for Indiana.
Ohio State won the opener of a grueling stretch that takes them to Illinois and No. 4 Wisconsin before a home game against No. 19 Tennessee. Indiana, which had won four straight, lost for the first time since Dec. 9 at Kentucky.