Wednesday, January 22, 2003

No. 14 Indiana 69, Ohio St. 51

By Michael Marot
The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Tom Coverdale bled on the floor and needed six stitches afterward to close the gash on his chin.

Brent Darby gestured angrily toward the Hoosiers fans who had harassed him from the opening tip.

Coverdale and Darby pushed, shoved and jawed at each other every chance they got Tuesday as No. 14 Indiana defeated Ohio State 69-51.

"I think Darby and Coverdale have this thing going, and it's going strong," Indiana coach Mike Davis said with a laugh.

If there was any doubt about how intense the battle was during the game, there wasn't when it finally ended: Darby and Coverdale left without shaking hands and there seemed to be no neutral corners.

The two were involved in one skirmish in front of the media row and another near the free-throw line.

Their personal battle epitomized the rest of the game.

The Hoosiers (14-3, 4-1 Big Ten) delivered most of the blows in a game that had the feel of an old-time Big Ten game. They relied on a stout defense, 15 points from backup Marshall Strickland and a 12-2 run in the final three minutes - with three starters on the bench - to pull away from the Buckeyes (8-8, 1-4).

Besides the pushing and shoving, tempers flared several times and the Assembly Hall crowd flustered Darby into a miserable night. He finished with 18 points, all in the second half, after missing his first eight shots. Darby was just 5-of-19 from the field and didn't connect on a 3-pointer.

That was better than Coverdale, who scored just 3 points, but his supporting cast was stronger. A.J. Moye had 13 points and eight rebounds, Jeff Newton added 12 points and George Leach 11.

"I think that's what happens every time we play each other," Coverdale said after getting the stitches. "It's just two competitors wanting to go out and win."

The victory, the Hoosiers third straight and 10th in a row at home, came without leading scorer Bracey Wright. He missed his third straight game with a nerve injury in his back.

Again, though, Indiana played with intensity and passion, and it made a big difference.

While baskets came at a premium, the hard knocks did not. The result was a contentious game on nearly every front.

Newton drew a technical foul on a dead ball in the second half, and Ohio State's Nick Sherman was ejected for running onto the court during one of the shoving matches between Coverdale and Darby.

Public address announcer Chuck Crabb even tried to temper the crowd, which booed Darby from the introductions, by once asking fans to "focus on the positives." That didn't happen.

Instead, the Hoosiers and Coverdale dug deep.

"I really like Coverdale," Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said. "Darby is every bit as competitive and those two kids have gone at each other for four years."

Few of their battles were more intense than Tuesday night's.

The team slugfest included 47 fouls and 54 free throws, and forced both teams to go to Plan B.

Newton fouled out with 6:33 left and Leach with 3:07, forcing the Hoosiers to use four and five guards down the stretch.

Ohio State, meanwhile, made just 6-of-26 shots in the first half and wound up with a season-low 17 first-half points. The Buckeyes were only slightly better in the second half, finishing with a shooting percentage of 26.8.

If the Buckeyes thought things would get easier in the second half, Indiana made certain they didn't. Coverdale and Darby got into a shoving match early in the second half, bringing Sherman, several other Buckeyes and Davis to the opposite side of the court. Sherman was ejected.

Later, after Coverdale and Darby went at it again, the officials met with both coaches, then sent Coverdale over to chat with Davis. Coverdale smiled, Davis patted him on the back of the head and sent him back into the game.

"They just wanted us to settle them down," Davis said.

Their teammates continued to throw barbs, though. With Indiana leading 37-27, Leach drew his fourth foul and underneath the basket, Newton drew a technical, also his fourth foul. Darby and Zach Williams hit all four free throws to make it 37-31. Williams finished with 12 points.

Indiana rebuilt a 48-36 lead, but Ohio State responded with a 9-2 run to get to 50-45 with 4:31 left.

No problem. The Hoosiers' knockout punch was a late 12-2 spurt that finally gave Coverdale a sense of satisfaction.

"Neither of us likes to lose," he said. "Fortunately, we came out on top."

OHIO ST. (8-8) - Jenkins 2-8 1-2 5, Radinovic 3-5 4-4 10, Fuss-Cheatham 1-5 0-0 2, Connolly 1-5 0-0 2, Darby 5-19 8-8 18, Jernigan 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 2-7 8-12 12, Sylvester 1-7 0-0 2. Totals 15-56 21-26 51.

INDIANA (14-3) - Newton 6-11 0-0 12, Leach 4-5 3-5 11, Moye 3-9 6-8 13, Coverdale 0-2 3-4 3, Hornsby 3-8 0-0 8, Perry 1-3 2-2 5, Strickland 3-6 8-8 15, Kline 1-8 0-1 2. Totals 21-52 22-28 69.

Halftime-Indiana 27-17. 3-Point goals-Ohio St. 0-9 (Fuss-Cheatham 0-1, Connolly 0-2, Sylvester 0-2, Darby 0-4), Indiana 5-17 (Hornsby 2-6, Perry 1-2, Moye 1-3, Strickland 1-4, Coverdale 0-2). Fouled out-Radinovic, Newton, Leach. Rebounds-Ohio St. 39 (Williams 9), Indiana 38 (Moye 8). Assists-Ohio St. 2 (Fuss-Cheatham, Darby 1), Indiana 13 (Newton 5). Total fouls-Ohio St. 25, Indiana 22. Technical-Newton. A-17,296.

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