When Ohio State plays Purdue tonight at 9 p.m., the Buckeyes will be looking to avoid a third straight embarrassing road loss.
Thad Matta’s team is coming off the worst loss in the coach’s Ohio State career, a 100-65 drubbing at the hands of Maryland. That loss was less than a week removed from 85-60 loss at Indiana.
Sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said that the team is aware of how embarrassing their two most recent losses have been and said the Buckeyes (12-7, 4-2 Big Ten) are anxious to take the court tonight in West Lafayette, Ind.
“I think as a team we’re definitely hungry to get back out there,” he said. “In practice this week we’ve been going at it really hard, just trying to become a tougher basketball team. This is another opportunity for us to face a top 25 team and prove to our fans and ourselves that we are one of the top teams in this conference.”
As Tate said, things aren’t getting any easier against Purdue. The Boilermakers (16-3, 4-2) enter the game ranked No. 22 by the Associated Press and are coming off a 107-57 win over Rutgers.
Purdue presents a formidable challenge down low as they rotate 7-2 Isaac Hass, 7-0 A.J. Hammons and 6-9 Caleb Swanigan, all of whom average over 10 points per game.
“We’ve got to do a great job, the best job we can with our post defense,” Matta said. “Those guys are hard to move down there. It’s no secret, you look at their shot totals and they’re going to get the ball inside to those guys. We’ve got to do a great job with our defense in terms of guarding the basketball, not letting the other guys get really, really going.”
Tasked with defending Swanigan (10.4 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game), Hammons (13.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Haas (10.9 ppg) will be Trevor Thompson and Daniel Giddens, both of whom have struggled with foul trouble this season. Thompson averages 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes while Giddens averages 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes, but staying on the court will be key for both Buckeye post players against Purdue.
Even if foul trouble doesn’t surface against the Boilermakers, Ohio State will certainly need to come out with a better effort than it did in either of its last two road games.
“I’m expecting us to come in there and play hard all 40 minutes,” point guard JaQuan Lyle said. “Coming out from the jump, start playing hard from the jump. Not waiting until the second media timeout or anything like that. Just trying to play hard the entire game, I feel like we haven’t done that in a while and we need to get back to doing that.”
In order to get that effort and intensity back Matta has made some changes in practice. The coach said Wednesday that he hadn’t went with starters against reserves once in practice this week, instead using a mismatch of players to up the intensity. Despite that tactic Matta said he hadn’t thought much about making any changes in the starting lineup, but didn’t rule that out.
Matta said the team has been practicing well since the loss against Maryland, but that’s not different for the Buckeyes this season. The coach won’t know for sure if the team is ready for Purdue until they take the court tonight.
“Nervous apprehension, maybe,” the coach said when asked if he was excited to see his team respond against the Boilermakers. “I say that from the standpoint of I want to see how we play.”