The tech people programmed the scoreboard numbers to look like the old digits at St. John Arena.
The stats and names on the video board were tweaked to look like the old Raycom TV broadcasts that frequently featured Dayton native and Ohio State legend Bill Hosket Jr. doing color commentary.
Everyone in attendance received t-shirts with “Ohio State” in block letters on the front, hoping to conjure up some support for a team struggling since the turn of the calendar to 2024.
Although nostalgia never goes out of style, there was some risk involved in this decision by the marketing department.
Ohio State had three great men’s basketball seasons in the 1990s, including the ‘99 squad that made a surprise run to the Final Four, but most were, frankly, forgettable.
With coach Chris Holtmann’s 13-9 but riding a four-game losing streak, which type of ‘90s Buckeyes team would show up on the floor was a reasonable thing to wonder.
By the time it was over, the announced crowd of 11,157 had seen both ends of the spectrum.
In the first half, Ohio State shot 50 percent from the field, held the Hoosiers to 33 percent and took a 42-29 lead into the locker room.
Sophomore Roddy Gayle Jr. could have passed for Jimmy Jackson, scoring 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the floor. A broad-shouldered wing like Jackson, he drew three fouls and went 4 for 4 from the free-throw line, too.
But the team Ohio State ran out in the second half more resembled one of the five squads that had losing records in the ‘90s than the Final Four team or either of Jackson’s Big Ten championship squads coached by Springfield North grad Randy Ayers in 1991 and ‘92.
This night, the Buckeyes led by as many as 18 points before watching Indiana rally to win 76-73, the Hoosiers’ second win since they beat Ohio State in Bloomington on Jan. 6.
Indiana shot 55 percent in the second half and made 4 of 6 three-pointers, including the game-winner by a wide-open Anthony Leal from the corner with 22 seconds left.
Ohio State went cold after halftime, shooting 32 percent and turning the ball over seven times, including on the Buckeyes’ final possession when they had a chance to win the game.
“I just felt like we weren’t detailed enough in the second half,” said Gayle, who finished with 19 points to tie Jamison Battle for the team lead. “First half, we came out with the type of aggression we need to withstand for the whole entire game, so in order for us to be the team we want to be we’ve gotta be able to withstand that aggression and attention to detail.”
Holtmann, who has made late winter swoons an annual tradition in his seven seasons as head coach of the Buckeyes, had few answers when it was over.
“We just weren’t as detailed as we needed to be or tough as we needed to be late,” the coach said. “Can’t leave a 3-point shooter on the ball side.
“We’ve got great kids. I don’t ever question that, but we need to see some results here.”
Next up is a visit from Maryland on Saturday.
At 13-10 overall and 3-9 in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes have eight games left in the regular season to try to salvage something worth throwing back to a few decades from now.
“We’ve got great kids,” Holtmann said. “I don’t ever question that, but we need to see some results here.
“I think it’s frustrating for everybody. It’s obviously been a really hard stretch for all of our players and our coaches so we’ve gotta find a way out of it.”