BLOOMINGTON, IND., JAN. 22 -- By the time Randy Ayers had completed the long bus ride back to Columbus following his team's 93-85 victory over Indiana, the clock in his home read 3 a.m. But instead of retiring to a night of blissful sleep, the Ohio State coach stayed up to watch game films of the previous night's encounter.
"How are you gonna sleep after that?" Ayers asked today from his office in St. John Arena. In fact, although he finally went to bed at about 5:30, the coach of the nation's No. 4 team was back on the job by 10, breaking down tape of Minnesota, Ohio State's next opponent.
Back here in Indiana though, Hoosiers' Coach Bob Knight was nowhere to be found, reportedly telling his players when he left the arena Monday night that he didn't want anything to do with them today. Perhaps wisely, the squad decided to hold a practice anyway, although a school spokesman said the atmosphere before the workout was one more befitting of a 2-16 team than a 16-2 team that had lost only for the first time in 15 games.
That 14-game winning streak had lifted Indiana to the nation's No. 3 position, and though the Hoosiers aren't likely to drop very far in the polls, the disappointment felt by Knight and his squad was surely brought on by the thoroughness of his Big Ten rival's triumph.
Indiana shot 29 percent and got just eight field goals in the opening 20 minutes of play, falling behind 48-29 at halftime. As vaunted as Knight's offense is, with its never-ending series of screens and picks designed to free players for easy shots, not one of the Hoosiers was credited with an assist for those eight hoops.
"I don't think I've ever had a team not get an assist in a half before," Knight said after the game.
After intermission, Ohio State went ahead by 22 points before Indiana began a furious comeback, closing to 84-81 with 1:21 remaining. However, guard Jamaal Brown (career-high 29 points) completed a three-point play the next time the Buckeyes got the ball and Ohio State maintained control, much to the dismay of a sellout crowd of 17,318.
"I thought about it all night and all day in school," said Indiana forward Calbert Cheaney. "We shouldn't have let them jump out on us like they did. They outhustled us to every loose ball."
Cheaney entered the game riding a streak in which he had scored at least 30 points in his previous three contests. Monday night, though, he didn't get his first basket until 8:02 remained in the first half, and what was deemed a lack of desire earned him a place next to Knight on the Hoosiers bench when the second half began.
"He singles you out sometimes but you know that it's everyone's problem," Cheaney said of the demotion from Knight. "Potentially we're a very good team but we have to do what the coaching staff wants us to. When we don't we're not that good, it's that simple.
"In the first half we didn't do anything they wanted us to do. The coaches wanted us to drive to the basket; we didn't drive, we took jump shots. Coach had said we couldn't jump-shoot our way past that team."
Cheaney scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half, leading the comeback. Indiana's charge was also abetted by a remarkable total of four three-point plays -- the Hoosiers making baskets and adding free throws after being fouled.
A fifth was lost when Eric Anderson missed a free throw after scoring and a potential sixth was disallowed when the officials ruled that Anderson was fouled before making a basket with 4:56 remaining.
Indiana's comeback and its ability to consistently get the basketball inside was one reason why Ayers wasn't uncontrollably giddy today.
"We allowed just entirely too much penetration," he said. "I looked at that tape and I saw a lot of things that we can do better. . . . I don't think we've reached our potential yet."
The team has at least managed to convert a few skeptics along the way, even some close to home. After a 10-0 nonconference start -- marred, some said, by the lack of quality of the opponents -- a television station in Columbus did a show called "Sprinting to the Title."
However, over the course of the broadcast, the host said that, as good as Ohio State seemed to be, it still wasn't good enough to beat Indiana.
The thought that the Buckeyes still have not reached their potential might be an unpleasant one for Ohio State's future opponents and perhaps even for potential tournament foes like UNLV and Arkansas, the only teams likely to be ranked ahead of the Buckeyes when the next polls are released.
Although Ohio State's last loss was to the Runnin' Rebels in the second round of last year's NCAA tournament and the squad's 16-game unbeaten run is the Buckeyes' best since it finished second nationally in 1962 -- with Knight on the squad -- Ayers is still hesitant about savoring this season's accomplishments. That's why he can nitpick at stunning performances like the one here.
"I look at teams in the top 10 and they've been there for a long time -- this is our first time being here in a long time," he said. "I want to be able to do this for four or five years. When you do that then you gain a certain amount of credibility.
"You've got to understand, this is just my second year here. We're still putting things together. I don't think I or my program are anywhere near established yet. I'll enjoy this game in the spring or the summer -- if we finish the season strongly."