Indiana wins fifth straight, commanding Ohio State


What a difference 17 days have made in Indiana’s season. The Hoosiers have gone from 1-4 in the Big Ten after a loss to Penn State on Jan. 11 to a 6-4 league record and playing much closer to original expectations.

Order is restored in Bloomington and the vision of a meaningful run is back in play as Mike Woodson’s team won its fifth straight on Saturday night, 86-70, over State Ohio. Here are five instant takeaways.

The Hoosiers deserve to have a number next to their name on Monday

Indiana was the No. 2 team in the AP Top 25 on Monday, but with five straight wins in college basketball’s deepest conference, the Hoosiers deserve to be ranked Monday. Among his wins in the recent surge? An 80-65 rout of an Illinois team in Champagne, the Illini’s only loss in the last seven games. Saturday marked the fourth time in Indiana’s winning streak that the Hoosiers won by double figures. Not only are they winning; they’ve been controlling teams in the NCAA Tournament conversation. This team is starting to look like the roster we thought they could be in the preseason after adjusting through injuries.

Indiana’s freshmen can shift the Hoosiers into a different gear

Trayce Jackson-Davis said in the preseason that the Mike Woodson era already felt different because of the type of talent the Hoosiers’ head coach was acquiring. He was referring to five-star prospect Jalen Hood-Schifino and four-star freshman Malik Reneau, who both scored in double figures in Saturday night’s win.

Hood-Schifino was the story of the first half. While Ohio State got off to a good start, the 6-foot-6 Pittsburgh native lit it up from downtown to the tune of six three-pointers. He scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the opening stanza and put Indiana in position to end the first half with a 15-0 run that gave them a 46-30 lead at halftime.

Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino is having a HUGE game

Indiana's Jalen Hood-Schifino is having a HUGE game

Hoosiers guard Jalen Hood-Schifino led Indiana to an 86-70 victory over the Buckeyes.

The 6-foot-9 product, Reneau continued a strong week and showed off his all-around skills with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. For a Hoosiers team looking for bench production, Reneau can be a sixth man that provides the spark in that role. For a team that sometimes lacks offensive consistency and perimeter pace, Hood-Schifino in particular is so important on that end of the court. He averaged three for Indiana per game in the first half.

The Hoosiers have also returned to their defensive roots

Indiana has allowed just 61.2 points per game in the five-game winning streak. The Hoosiers were 24th in defensive efficiency a year ago, the top mark in the Big Ten, but that end of the court was part of their problems earlier this year. They’ve gotten on track on that end of the court, playing more of the way Woodson has striven to make his teams succeed.

Ohio State is in freefall mode

The Buckeyes were a Top 25 team earlier this month. After an offseason of major trades for Chris Holtmann and the loss of EJ Liddell, it looked like Ohio State would stay afloat and play a factor in the Big Ten. It’s been a nightmare last three weeks for this program, and they look set to miss the NCAA Tournament. The Bucks have lost six of their last seven games and have struggled defensively. They rely on youngsters and inexperienced players in leading roles to produce, and that hasn’t worked. Mike Decourcy had them in the “next four outings” in his bracket projection Friday. It’s danger time for OSU, and a must-win game comes Thursday in Columbus against Wisconsin (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

Trayce Jackson-Davis is playing as well as anyone in the United States and holds the keys to Indiana’s March potential

That’s why TJD returned to Bloomington for one final season. We’re seeing it right now, with his latest form of greatness coming Saturday night. The senior had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the win. In the winning streak, he is averaging 25.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. That’s production at the national player of the year level, and yes, there’s an argument for the fact that the top two players in college basketball in terms of production are from the Big Ten with Zach Edey and Jackson-Davis battling it out for the highest honors. It’s a fun individual race to watch in the coming weeks.

Hoosiers’ Trayce Jackson-Davis slams home alley-oop

Hoosiers' Trayce Jackson-Davis slams home alley-oop

Malik Reneau threw an alley-oop to Trayce Jackson Davis for the first half.

Next up for Indiana: A trip to Maryland for a matchup on Tuesday at 9:00 PM ET.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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