Forty six fouls called. Thirty eight turnovers committed. But in the end, it was only one victorious team emerging.
In a frantic, edge-of-your seat contest, Purdue outlasted Ohio State in what nearly became a battle of attrition. Holding on for dear life as Ohio State cut a 10-point deficit in the last minute to three with just 28 seconds remaining, the Boilermakers ultimately survived 75-68 Saturday in West Lafayette.
It wasn’t exactly anything you can do I can do better for either team. Instead, it was more like, “who wants this?”
Six players for the two teams combined committed at least three turnovers. Every time one team made an errant pass, fumbled a dribble or missed a wildly-tossed field goal attempt, the act was kindly returned by the opponent. In the end, however, it was the Boilermakers using momentum from an energetic home crowd and disqualifications by Ohio State starters David Lighty and Othello Hunter to produce a much-needed profile victory.
“Obviously they beat us eight straight games and our players were aware of that,” said a defiant Purdue head coach Matt Painter after the game. “It was very important for us to get over the hump against a quality team like Ohio State.”
Though there are exceptions within the conference this season, as Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern exemplifies, today was a harsh reminder that winning on the road in the Big Ten is never easy. And when you’re up against a rowdy environment and playing a talented team such as Purdue, definitely not taken for granted.
It didn’t look in the first half like the Buckeyes were going to be intimidated into submission and acquiesce to life on the road, however.
Senior guard Jamar Butler started out like gangbusters scoring 12 of his team’s first 14 points. By halftime, Ohio State led 36-29 and Butler had accounted for 16 points and three assists.
But like seasons change, so too did Purdue’s defensive focus. In the second half, the Boilermakers picked up full-court pressure on Butler and often trapped him when reaching the timeline.
It apparently paid dividends, as Butler was just 2-of-8 shooting in the second half.
"I thought we allowed a good player to get his head up to start the game,” Painter said. “Then, when you allow a good player to get his head up, sometimes you can play good defense and he can still score baskets. I think that's what he did throughout the game.
“I compare him to just a really good poker player,” Painter added. “You never know if Jamar Butler's happy; you never know if he's down and out.”
As a team, Ohio State was just 9-of-32 (28 percent) in the second half.
“Consistency is a word we've used with this team and we just didn't play with the consistency,” said OSU head coach Thad Matta. “We didn't have the consistent play we needed for 40 minutes tonight.”
BREAKING IT DOWN
Ohio State Offensively against Purdue Defensively
· The game took a turn for the worst for the Buckeyes when Butler lost his stroke. With the exception of two clutch 3-pointers back-to-back that resulted in a 52-51 lead for Ohio State with just over eight minutes left, the senior’s magic evaporated. Purdue forced Butler to give the ball up early in the possession by extending their pressure down court and across the timeline.
· About midway through the second half, it appeared the Buckeyes attempted to establish a low-post game with multiple entry passes to 7-1 Kosta Koufos. Though Koufos finished 6-of-12 with 12 points, he was a non-factor down the stretch as the game sped back up. However, Koufos did have one negative stretch that greatly impacted the momentum when he air-balled a wild turn-around baseline jumper and then followed that mistake by fouling Robbie Hummel during a made 3-pointer on the ensuing defensive possession. The four-point play turned a 2-point OSU lead into a deficit.
· For most of the first half, Ohio State used the up-tempo pace to their advantage by getting a lot of easy baskets off of one-pass possessions. Though very few possessions were running off more than a few seconds from the shot clock, it was taking Ohio State one crisp pass to find open looks. As the game slowed down in stretches and Purdue upped the defensive intensity, Ohio State’s halfcourt offense became non-existent.
· With Purdue’s aggressive hedge off high screens by Ohio State, I thought the opportunity was lost to run some pick-and-roll plays and initiate some high-low action with Koufos and Hunter. As part of making the Ohio State guards uncomfortable 30-feet from the basket, Purdue disrupted any Buckeye flow before it ever began.
· Freshman guard Evan Turner did his part to attack the Purdue pressure, one of the only players on Ohio State’s roster that did so. However, his going 110 miles per hour in a 35 zone caused himself five turnovers. Though turnover prone to begin with, the 6-5 guard from Chicago needs to learn how to harness his energy and pick and choose his battles. He twice got stripped on a fast break after being too eager to push the ball and was unaware of oncoming defenders behind him.
· Lastly, the 20 turnovers and 35.5 percent shooting (6-of-24 from 3-point range) were likely a direct result of Ohio State’s inexperience and youth in the backcourt. With Butler struggling down the stretch, the Buckeyes needed to find someone to hit shots from the perimeter and it simply wasn’t happening. It didn’t help that Ohio State was hard-pressed to even work into a good shot, but when they found one, it was usually met with an unfriendly clank on the Mackey Arena rims. As Turner and Jon Diebler begin to find consistency, and David Lighty also exudes marksmanship, perhaps the Buckeyes pull out games like this one.
Purdue Offensively and Ohio State Defensively
· I was mildly surprised by Ohio State’s decision to come out with man-to-man defense in the second half. I’m not sure it was responsible for the quick 10-0 run to start the first three and a half minutes, but it didn’t help. Clearly Matta wanted to disrupt what Purdue was doing in the first half, especially in transition – where Ohio State struggled to get back and in position on defense.
· Credit junior guard Marcus Green for the game of his season. With 22 points, Green delivered dagger after dagger into the hearts of the OSU defense. Green entered the game averaging just 4.9 per game with 78 points for the entire season. While the focus clearly centered on Hummel and Scott Martin, who combined on just 15 points, Green and Keaton Grant added 36.
· It was a wise decision by Matta to use the full-court pressure against the inexperienced Purdue guards. It created a tempo that was effective for Ohio State and caused 18 turnovers by the Boilermakers – which is obviously a lot of wasted possessions. Problematic for Ohio State, however, was that the Buckeyes found themselves in foul difficulty and because of that and the pace of the game, had to pull back somewhat to avoid fouls and exhausting Butler.
· Before getting into foul problems, Othello Hunter was playing terrific interior defense. Most of Purdue’s damage came from the perimeter or in transition, mostly because Hunter altered so many shots inside. He and Koufos really did well in that department. It was unfortunate for Hunter that his called “moving screen” down 64-58 impacted the game so much with just 2:42 left. That foul, which was his fourth, really hurt Ohio State. However, Hunter did not act like a leader when he let his frustration get the best of him, causing a technical and disqualified him with a fifth personal foul. Also of note: P.J. Hill did a nice job harassing Purdue ball-handlers during his miniscule 4 minutes of action.
· A final, glaring observation of Ohio State defensively is an ongoing problem of leaving their feet on ball-fakes. The Buckeyes are picking up a lot of fouls through the season because of not being disciplined defensively. There were no fewer than four or five fouls picked up on jumping too early.
As a whole, this was the type of game you can chalk up as understandable. It’s never fun to see such a sloppy, undisciplined loss. However, when you consider the season is a work in progress, a loss on the road to a potential NCAA Tournament team is forgivable.
The bad news gets worse for Ohio State (12-4), however.
A mole hill becomes a mountain beginning this week. Now the Buckeyes are rewarded with their disappointing loss by traveling to East Lansing to battle Big Ten favorite Michigan State on Tuesday. Then, for the Buckeyes’ efforts, they bounce from that landmine to face a hungry, motivated Tennessee team in Knoxville on Saturday.
The Volunteers are still reeling over two losses to runner-up Ohio State last season, including a blown 20-point lead in the second half against the Buckeyes in the regional semifinals. Needless to say, Bruce Pearl will have a group of angry Vols next weekend.
At this point, none of the remaining two games in this stretch will be disastrous should the Buckeyes lose them, but stealing a victory or two would greatly bolster Ohio State’s confidence and postseason resume.
Today sure didn’t help that cause.