The Buckeyes have been sharing the hero role of late en route to three straight victories. Tonight, it was Lenzelle Smith, Jr.'s turn. The senior guard finished with 16 points, twelve of which came on 3's in the second half. Those splashes from deep proved to be crucial for the Buckeyes, who had faltered a bit coming out of halftime and allowed the Boilermakers to pull within 6.
Ohio State was in control for most of this one, and while they came away with a double digit lead, they didn't put the proverbial boot to the throat until the late stages. OSU didn't play their best game in any stretch of the imagination, but did more than enough to get their third straight conference win. Purdue had jumped out to an early 6-0 lead to start the game, but a 10-point surge from the Buckeyes turned things around quickly. An absolutely ferocious dunk by Amir Williams provided the opening spark that the offense needed.
Aside from Smith's Herculean effort, LaQuinton Ross was also sharp offensively as usual. Ross finished in double digits with a quiet 15 points, including a late three that left no doubt about the game's outcome. On the Purdue end, A.J. Hammons had another big game, managing to keep Amir Williams and Trey McDonald in foul trouble much of the evening, but his near double-double was enough to frustrate the Bucks and keep Purdue in this one. Hammons finished with 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting.
Purdue also got good nights from guards Kendall Stephens and Raphael Davis. Neither started the game, but they finished with 12 and 11 points respectively. To the delight of LGHL's staff, All-Name Team member Basil Smotherman made a quiet appearance for Purdue, pulling down 4 rebounds without attempting a shot.
There was one tense moment for Ohio State in the closing minutes. Shannon Scott went down hard after a flying swat of a Purdue layup attempt, and lay on the floor for a minute while play continued at the opposite end of the court. Scott eventually walked off under his own power. Scott finished with 9 points to go with his 5 assists and the late block.
Aaron Craft, the hero of the Buckeyes' recent upset over Iowa, finished with 7 points, 3 steals, and 4 assists. Those 4 assists make it 646 for Craft in his career, good enough to move Craft to 6th all-time in the B1G in that category.
With three straight wins to their name, Ohio State will now have to prepare for the big one. Though Michigan's coming off two losses in three games, including an absolute routing at the hands of Iowa, a win over their arch-rival would reboot their Big Ten championship hopes almost instantly. An Ohio State win on the other hand, in their lone matchup of the season, would prove huge for OSU's March confidence. The Buckeyes will need to do a better job keeping their big men out of early foul trouble, as they will be needed against the likes of Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan.
The two teams tip off at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday night at Value City Arena.
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