The Buckeyes visited West Lafayette this evening and left Mackey Arena with a 74-64 win over Purdue and Thad Matta’s 100th conference victory. The Bucks used good shot selection and high-energy hustle to grab the lead and never relinquish it again. The Buckeyes rode the scoring of DeShaun Thomas again, who picked up 22 points and 7 rebounds, Aaron Craft (15) and Evan Ravenel (11). Purdue responded with scoring from Terone Johnson (18), A.J. Hammons (13), and Ronnie Johnson (11).
The first half started out as a high-paced affair. The Buckeyes came out of the gate with a lot more energy than they have shown all season, and Purdue seemed all too happy to play an up-tempo battle. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers the Buckeye’s shooting made a sudden and surprising reemergence. OSU hit nearly 65% at one point during the period, but had to do it without Aaron Craft who sat for 15 minutes with two fouls. Thankfully Shannon Scott has really turned it on this season and was able to get the job done in Craft’s place.
The Boilermakers began to chip away at the OSU double digit lead as soon as the second half began. They struck by playing aggressive offense in the paint and forcing the Buckeyes into bad fouls that got Purdue to the charity stripe. That brief spurt lead to a back and forth battle, with the Bucks occasionally regaining control of a 10 to 12 point lead, and Purdue sometimes working it back down to eight. Despite getting it down to six with just under two minutes left to play, Purdue couldn’t find any success against the tough Buckeye defense.
This game was a nice sight to see after the rough game on Saturday in Urbana-Champaign. The Bucks needed to come back from that tough loss and look like they learned something from it. Tonight they played like the game wasn’t an automatic win and were able to find more success than previously. Away wins in the Big Ten are not easy to come by, least of all wins in Mackey arena, so it’s great to steal this one away from Purdue.
1. Better early energy entering the game. The Buckeyes attacked quickly, picking up the first four points, including one off a quick turnover by Craft. It’s a much better start for a team that has struggled in the first half most of the season.
2. The Shooting! There was a shooting game and it wasn’t terrible! Sam Thompson even hit a mid-range baseline jumper and a longer range shot just inside the three point arc when it really mattered. Both of those shots were well outside what I would normally consider to be his range. Clearly playing high energy defense is helping this team get their minds right on the offensive end.
3. Shot selection. Part of the excellent shooting was the result of much better decision making with the basketball. Clearly the coaches reminded the Bucks about what makes for good shot selection and what doesn’t. Whatever they did worked in a big way.
4. Rebounding. The Buckeyes were +9 in rebounding at the end of the first half. That’s a substantial improvement over the game against Illinois, but still not perfect. There is plenty of room for improvement, especially with the lack of boxing out on in the inside.
1. Amir Williams hand strength is sorely lacking. I have never seen a center lose the ball in the paint more frequently than Williams. He simply cannot grip the basketball at all, and the slighest touch sends the rock sailing. I desperately hope he starts hitting the weight room like crazy.
2. Turnovers. This team is committing far more turnovers than they had been earlier in the season. I’m not certain what has caused the sudden change, but 11 turnovers in the first half of the last two games is way too many. OSU did correct this in the second half, committing only two turnovers in the last 20 minutes.
The Buckeyes will next play the Michigan Wolverines in Value City Arena on Sunday, January 13th. You’ll be able to see that game on CBS at 1:30 PM Eastern Time.