Deshaun Thomas returned to his free shooting ways – and the results were good. Behind 22 from the Buckeyes' natural scorer and arguably senior big man Evan Ravenel's best game of the year, Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes bounced back to defeat Purdue, 74-64. Ohio State earned their first true road victory of the season, and given how they looked in their previous contest, it couldn't have come at a better time.
With Saturday's brutal loss behind them, Ohio State opened strongly against an admittedly somewhat two-faced Purdue team. Purdue's stout legal
defense offense team of (Terone) Johnson and (Ronnie) Johnson had their moments, and finished with 18 and 11, respectively. D.J. Byrd, an easy target for Ohio State fans' ire in Ohio State-Purdue games past, was a virtual non-factor, finishing with just 6.
Perhaps the most intriguing subplot of this one was the re-emergence offensively of Aaron Craft. After almost a month and a half of relative invisibility on that side of the ball, Craft emerged from nowhere to put the pressure offensively on the Boilermakers' young guards. They scarcely had an answer as Craft finished the game with 15 points.
The Buckeyes began this one jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead on a smooth jump shot from Thomas and a layup from Craft, but Purdue answered back with an impressive coast-to-coast showing from Ronnie Johnson. By the under 16 timeout, the Buckeyes were shooting 3-6 from field, but Purdue was matching them shot for shot to keep the deficit to 7-6.
Despite Craft receiving an early second foul, Shannon Scott would come in and play the understudy role to a T. While his scoring output looked not unlike the paltry showings we'd grown accustomed to seeing from Craft in the last month and change, Scott played fast, was able to match the pace Johnson was setting, and also managed to find his teammates in transition.
An impressive Evan Ravenel layup helped key a run that saw them break the lead open to 7. A Deshaun Thomas 3 and an impressive slash from LaQuinton Ross, who played totally within the limitations of his game and looked to be the real deal in the first half for Ohio State, suddenly had the lead up to 29-17. The OSU lead would peak around 14, but behind the attack of Thomas, Scott, Ross, and even the suddenly revitalized recent grad, Evan Ravenel, the Buckeyes went into the half up 39-29.
Craft's terrific play on both sides of the ball, including a 13-point, 2-assist second half, was a godsend right when Ohio State needed them the most. While there's still plenty of reason for healthy skepticism that Aaron Craft has to be a viable scorer for Ohio State to have sustained success in Big Ten conference play, getting any additional scoring output from an unexpected source will definitely help this team up their ceiling.
Though Ohio State was shooting 57% from the field at half (16-28 from the field) and was expected by virtually no one to keep it up, the Buckeyes kept the scoring streak going, finishing the game with a remarkable 55.6% mark from the field (30-54).
Despite being on the younger and relatively inexperienced side, Purdue showed there was no quit in them. Behind a 10-2 run, the Boilermakers got the lead down to 70-64 with just over 2:30 to play and forced some uncomfortable possessions for the Buckeyes in the process.
Lenzelle Smith Jr., who was mostly a non-factor in this one (joining Amir Williams, who continued to look tentative and lethargic offensively), came up with a huge rebound that set up a silk meaningful jumper from Sam Thompson (who yes, did provide the requisite SportsCenter highlight GIF dunk), helping give the Buckeyes a comfortable margin for good.
Ohio State's next contest will be one of the biggest of the year as they play host to the unbeaten #2 ranked Michigan Wolverines. The Buckeyes are expected to have a number of high profile recruits in town as well (including 4-star S Vonn Bell, 4-star LB Christopher Worley, and 4-star RB/WR Corn Elder).
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