The Boilermakers visited the Buckeyes this evening in Columbus for the return match of their two game series. Despite a slow start, and a bit of back and forth play, the game was all Ohio State as the Buckeyes secured the 67-49 victory. Surprisingly, LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes in scoring with 17 points, closely followed by Lenzelle Smith Jr. with 16. For the Boilermakers, Kendall Stephens put together 12 points off the bench, while AJ Hammons and Rapheal Davis both earned 11 a piece. The win gave the Buckeyes their third straight in Big Ten play.
Things started from a defensive perspective. Both teams demonstrated good movement against the offensive motion, and forced a number of turnovers early. The first points weren’t even scored until two minutes had elapsed, and Purdue was able to net the first three buckets of the game. The Bucks simply struggled to find good shots on the offensive end, and weren’t able to score until the fifth minute of the game on a Sam Thompson ally-oop.
The momentum changed in a hurry following the first TV timeout. The Buckeyes went on an 8 point unanswered tear to put together a 10-0 run and claim their first lead of the game. It was only ended by a Kendall Stevens three pointer after four minutes had ellapsed. Things had changed as the Buckeyes settled down in their attack, focused on getting the ball low against Purdue’s man defense. OSU also worked harder on the boards and began to balance the rebounding numbers.
With both teams locked into the game, they settled down into a steady back and forth battle. For the most part, it seemed that when one team was locked in defensively, so was the opponent. If one them started to pick up on the offensive end, it was reciprocated on the other end. That said, there wasn’t much in the way of offense through the first twelve minutes. The Boilermakers shot 5-20, while the Bucks hit only 7-18 by the third TV timeout.
It has been infuriating watching OSU struggle to put teams away when their defense has played lock-down basketball. Today was no different. OSU held Purdue in long scoreless stretches multiple times in this game, but was unable to put together big offensive runs during those periods. On several occasions the Bucks were even in a position to put their lead in double figures, but Purdue continued to find ways to prevent it from happening.
Particularly concerning is OSU’s shot selection. When the Buckeyes choose to shoot the ball from range, it is frequently a poor shot. Shots are put up early in the shot clock, after only a single pass, and usually covered by a defender. It is very nearly a shock when the Bucks do put up an open three pointer, or run an offensive set to set it up. I have to believe that the majority of the team’s struggles in shooting derives from this issue originally. The fact that it has only gotten worse is a symptom of the loss a confidence stemming from this source issue.
It didn’t help the Buckeyes that Amir Williams was forced to sit for a healthy chunk of the first half. When he returned in the second, OSU found things a little easier to manage in the paint with him back in the game. His rebound putback that picked up an additional free throw helped to counter a Purdue three pointer on the other end. It was a smart play, and is a sign that Williams is slowly but surely learning what he has to do to be successful in the Big Ten.
The Bucks picked up their first double digit lead of the game on a killer five point run with 14 minutes left in the second half. Strong defensive play against the Boilers helped to force a few turnovers which led to quality offense – typical for Matta coached teams. Smith dropped a wide open, and well selected, three pointer off a Craft assist, which was followed by Smith feeding Shannon Scott on a layup to bump the lead to ten. It wasn’t to last long, however, as Purdue took a timeout to settle the troops and quickly dropped four points to close the gap.
Purdue’s renewed success came as a result of their focusing again on defense. By forcing OSU into costly turnovers, the Boilers were able to close the gap to as few as three points. For a moment, it seemed like the Black and Gold were going to reclaim the lead, but then Aaron Craft happened. Craft put himself in a position to take an off-ball foul from AJ Hammons. That play forced a turnover and set up an offensive set where Lenzelle Smith would drop his third three pointer. His fourth followed shortly after, and put the Buckeyes up by double digits for the second time in the game.
When LaQuinton Ross dropped his first three pointer of the game to put the Buckeyes up 14, the game was all but over. OSU took their time on offense in their last three possessions to kill clock and salted the game away with ease. The Buckeyes ended up shooting 24-53 (45.3%) from the floor and 8-19 (42.1%) from three. The Boilers responded with 21-48 (43.8%) and 5-13 (38.5%) respectively. The Buckeyes also won the turnover battle 14-7.
The Buckeyes will next face Michigan in Columbus on Tuesday, February 11th. You’ll be able to see that game at 9:00 PM Eastern Time on ESPN.