Keady, out with the flu, was as absent as his team seemed to be in the second of Wednesday's Big Ten men's basketball game at Ohio State. The Buckeyes broke open a close game at the half and cruised to a 75-65 win before 13,513 at Value City Arena.
"I thought the key for the game was the second half," said OSU coach Thad Matta, whose team won its third straight game. "We really stepped up defensively and did a better job of challenging shots. Our defense picked up and allowed us to generate some offense.
"This was another good team win for us. We got everybody involved and everybody brought something to the table for us."
Je'Kel Foster led Ohio State (15-7, 4-4) with 15 points and four assists. He was 4 of 8 from behind the three-point arc.
Four other OSU players reached double figures in scoring. J.J. Sullinger contributed 13 points. Matt Sylvester added 12 points and four assists. Tony Stockman added 11 points. Terence Dials had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"I really think we play our best basketball when we move the ball," Sullinger said of OSU's balance. "When we're moving the basketball, we have a lot of weapons. We have confidence in everybody and everybody contributed tonight. I think that's when we're at our best."
The win allowed OSU to eclipse its win total from last year, when the Buckeyes were 14-16.
"This definitely means a lot," Sullinger said. "No one expected us to be doing as well as we're doing. To be totally honest, we're not where we want to be. We definitely think there were some games that got away from us earlier in the year.
"We just wanted to get this win. This was a must-have for us. This puts us in a good position."
Purdue (5-14, 1-7) played the game without Keady, who remained in Indiana as he recovers from the flu. Keady, PU's coach for 25 years, missed what would have been his last appearance at OSU. Assistant Matt Painter, hired last spring to replace the retiring Keady, coached the game in his absence.
Carl Landry led the Boilers with 23 points and 10 rebounds. David Teague contributed 14 points, while Brandon McKnight had 12 points and seven rebounds. The Boilers committed 20 turnovers – 11 on OSU steals.
"Obviously, we wish we could have won for Coach Keady," Painter said. "We weren't able to do that. We just didn't take care of the basketball."
Foster and Sylvester each had nine points in the first half as the Buckeyes took a 33-30 halftime lead. OSU led 10-9 after a Stockman three-pointer with 13:09 left in the half. Business picked up from there as the teams were tied four times and traded the lead 13 times in the first 20 minutes.
The Buckeyes took the lead for good on Stockman's three-pointer that gave OSU a 32-30 lead with 2:19 left in the half.
Ohio State grabbed control of the game with an 11-2 run to open the second half. Foster got it started with a three-pointer from the top just 10 seconds into the half. Ivan Harris then made a baseline jumper. After Purdue's Brandon McKnight made a driving layup, Butler canned a three-pointer. Fuss-Cheatham capped the run with a trey from the left corner off a feed from Sullinger as OSU surged ahead 44-32 with 15:37 left.
"Starting the game or the half, you have to set the tone," Foster said. "I think in the first four minutes of the second half, we did that tonight."
The lead ballooned to 56-39 after OSU scored seven straight points. Four of those were from Sullinger. Sylvester capped the run by taking the ball from PU's Xavier Price and going coast to coast for a jam with 8:06 left.
"In the second half, it was their ability to be efficient and get good shots and our inability to defend them," Painter said.
Sullinger's three-pointer with 5:02 left put OSU up 60-44. The Buckeyes still led 63-48 after Foster made 1 of 2 free throws with 3:47 left. Purdue made things interesting by scoring six straight points and cutting the lead to 63-54 after a baseline jumper by McKnight with 2:06 left.
But Purdue never drew any closer as the Buckeyes made 10 of 12 free throws – including 5 of 6 by Stockman – in the final 1:29 to close it out.
Jamar Butler had six points for OSU. Fuss-Cheatham had three and Harris and Matt Marinchick each had two.
* Keady missed a special sendoff planned in his honor.
"This may be the first time he has missed a game in 47 years," Painter said. "He's got to be pretty sick to miss a game, if you know anything about him."
* Matta again went with the starting backcourt of Foster and Jamar Butler.
"Honestly, that was a tough decision," Matta said. "I probably didn't decide that until 1 o'clock last night. I watched practice the last two days and felt like those guys had played well enough to stay with it. I told Tony and Brandon that it is not something that is set in stone."
* Dials' double-double was his seventh of the season and 10th of his career.
* OSU improved to 88-21 all-time in VCA and 12-1 at home this year (one game was at St. John Arena).
* Matta, in his fifth season as a college head coach, saw his record improve to 65-7 in home games.
* The Buckeyes host Michigan Saturday (12:17 p.m., ESPN-Plus regional syndication). The Wolverines stood at 12-10 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play following Wednesday's 71-54 home loss to Minnesota.