The Purdue Boilermakers, the last team to beat Ohio State in Value City Arena, made an attempt to do it again tonight and very nearly succeed. The Buckeyes escaped the upset bid, winning 87-84 against a surprisingly accurate shooting night from Purdue who hit an excellent 57.9% from beyond the arc. William Buford had a huge night for OSU scoring 29 points and scooping up 7 rebounds to keep the Buckeyes in the game. Jared Sullinger added 18 and 6 while Purdue’s D.J. Byrd put in 24 and 6 for the Boilermakers.
Surprisingly, Matt Painter chose not to start Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith, replacing them with bench players Kelsey Barlow and D.J. Byrd. The mix-up in the starters was due to Purdue’s poor play against Indiana at home. Playing like crap against your biggest rival is not conducive to making your head coach very happy.
Despite a couple early gaffes the Buckeyes jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on the strength of Sullinger inside and a Lenzelle Smith three. The rapid start forced Painter to call a quick timeout, hoping to get some more energy out of his guys. The pause worked as Purdue came out of the timeout with better effort on both ends and quickly tied up the score at 7. It was an impressive turnaround, and showed a flash of the Purdue we’ve grown accustomed to the last few seasons.
Continuing his trend of frequent early rotations, Matta brought Sam Thompson into the game with 14 minutes left in the first half. With the game still close, it was yet another sign that the young freshman has really started to earn his coach’s trust – especially on the defensive end of the court. JD Weatherspoon also got time later in the first half demonstrating his improving presence for this basketball team. Weatherspoon may not be getting regular appearances yet, but he’s getting closer to it.
Purdue continued to attack the Buckeyes from the three-point stripe. Unlike Wisconsin’s inability to strike from long range, the Boilermaker’s couldn’t seem to miss early hitting 75% of their long-range shots. A lot of the strategy derived from the loss of forward Travis Carroll early to foul trouble – from trying to defend Sullinger. Painter simply knew that his team was out-matched down low, and committed his team to opening up shooters on the outside. With Ohio State often struggling to close on shooters beyond the arc the plan worked to perfection and allowed Purdue to keep the score close.
The game quickly devolved into a fast paced shootout with neither team seemingly capable of missing. Through the majority of the first half, the two teams were hitting 67% of their shots from the floor, and at least similar from beyond the arc. Everyone was getting in on the party: Craft, Smith, and Sully all rained in huge three pointers for the Bucks, while Robbie Hummel and company were dropping them on the other end. Add to that the huge Kelsey Barlow slam that posterized Sullinger and it was all around a lights out game from everyone on the court.
The pace, and the Barlow slam, fired up the Buckeyes. Before Purdue could blink OSU had posted a quick 12-0 run on the strength of a number of great shots, including a JD Weatherspoon bank-shot from the close-range baseline. The Buckeyes were playing with a level of controlled aggression that we rarely see, with passes being FIRED into the lane as opposed to the usual soft bounce-pass. It was an interesting and welcome change in OSU’s mentality – a visible desire to simply crush the opposition.
Purdue closed the gap by affecting OSU’s method of defending the Boiler’s seniors. By forcing switches to get favorable matchups, Painter was able to force Ohio State’s defense into weak positions either beyond the arc or in the paint. One great example was Sullinger defending Robbie Hummel out at the three point arc. While Sully is an acceptable defender at the arc, he’s not yet good enough to handle Hummel’s experience. Sullinger ended up fouling Hummel on a three point shot which gave Robbie three free points from the charity stripe.
The Boilers were able to close the half on a 15-4 run to tie the game at 40 at the half. The simple fact that Purdue was shooting 70% from beyond the arc (7-10) and 60.9% from the floor (14-23) in the half was enough to allow Purdue to keep it close. That is the ridiculous level of shooting that can win you games against anyone in the country, and it was certainly working in Purdue’s favor – even despite the Buckeyes hitting a season best 62.5% (5-8) from three for the half.
Level the blame at the defensive intensity from the Buckeyes. OSU seemed unwilling to keep up with their assignments, allowing the Boilers too many uncontested jumpshots. The Bucks also seemed unable to attack the glass for the rebounds, and too often was Purdue allowed a second chance basket. The rebounding was so bad that Jared Sullinger only had a single rebound at halftime.
The pace of the game did not suffer at all through the half. Both teams came out scoring with a vengence. Purdue took advantage of Kelsey Barlow’s excellent game so far to attack the basket quickly, blowing past Aaron Craft and drawing a cheap foul on a quick slam that immediately reset the tone of the game. The Buckeyes took a moment to reset themselves but eventually were able to regain a slim control of the lead.
You have to give a lot of credit to D.J. Byrd’s shooting night. At one point of the second half, Byrd had knocked down all six of his three pointer attempts for the game. That’s an incredible streak of hot shooting that only Jon Diebler could possibly touch. Considering Byrd is one of Purdue’s best three point shooters, that effort wasn’t incredibly surprising, but it was certainly devistating. Doing it away from home is even more impressive. Unfortunately he missed his seventh and was forced to sit with 10 minutes left with 4 fouls, restricting his ability to continue his hot shooting.
The game stayed knotted close for most of the way. A lot of Purdue’s ability to keep pace was due to their guards effectively using the dribble drive and spin move against the Buckeyes. OSU was seemingly incapable of rotating to help in the paint allowing Kelsey Barlow repeated easy access to the rim. Part of the issue was Purdue leading Sullinger out of the paint, freeing up the lane for the dribble drive.
Foul trouble began to be an issue for both teams late in the game. Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger both had 4 fouls for the Buckeyes with more than 6 minutes left in the game, while D.J. Byrd had 4 for the Boilers, with Anthony Johnson and Travis Carroll both with three. Worse for Purdue was allowing the Buckeyes to get into the double bonus early in the 2nd half, giving the Buckeyes plenty of easy opportunities through the end of the game.
It was the athletic freshman and the experienced senior who finally gave the Buckeyes a little breathing room. Buford dropped a long two from the top of the key giving the Bucks a small lead. On the other end, Purdue moved the ball around to discombobulate the Buckeye defense before attacking the basket. Sam Thompson made an incredible play to block the shot which was quickly recovered by Ohio State. On the other end, Buford dropped in another long two forcing Matt Painter into a timeout to try to cool the run. Unfortunately for him it did nothing of the sort as William Buford dropped in a huge three pointer to put the Boilers down by 7.
William Buford had a huge game tonight in bailing out the Buckeyes. His 29 points were a big difference in the game, with him scoring many of them when the rest of the team couldn’t seem to find their shots. Along with his seven rebounds it was exactly the kind of game you expect from your senior in a tight contest. We’ve been waiting all season for Buford to show that kind of play, and it was refreshing to finally see it.
With a minute left to play Jared Sullinger was forced out of the game after a hard fall on a rough rebound. During the play, it appeared that he was popped in the face (incidental contact) and hit his tailbone hard. It put OSU in awkward position against a spunky team with the game still in doubt. With the sudden advantage in the paint, Purdue attacked the basket repeatedly trying to score quick points and close the five point gap. Thankfully, William Buford was there to tip a juggled rebound away from a Boilermaker to give him a solo fast break for a huge slam. The result was a 7 point lead with just over 30 seconds to play and a huge dagger in the heart of Purdue.
The Buckeyes shot an impressive 52.0% (26-50) from the floor and 56.3% (9-16) from three, matching some of their best shooting of the season. Purdue responded with an equal 50.9% (27-53) and 55.6% (10-18) respectively that allowed them to keep pace all game long. Ohio State outrebounded Purdue 32-23, but committed three more turnovers than the Boilermakers 7-4.
The Buckeyes will next face the Michigan State Spartans in Value City Arena on Saturday, February 11th at 6:00 PM EST. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN.