Value City Arena
After winning their last two games on the road, Ohio State will return to Value City Arena and try to make it three wins in a row when they host Purdue tonight. The Buckeyes had been really struggling heading into last Saturday's game against a Wisconsin team that was ranked at the time, but put forth a gritty effort to down the Badgers, 59-58. Thad Matta's team followed that up by going into Iowa City and shutting down the outside game from Iowa to defeat the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes, 76-69. The win evened out the Buckeyes' Big Ten record at 5-5 this season and moved them into a tie for that all-important fourth-place slot. The win against Iowa was the first time since 1993 that an unranked Ohio State team beat a ranked Iowa team, and the first time since 1990 that it happened on the road.
While the Buckeyes will be looking for their third straight win, Purdue will be trying to put together a win streak of their own. The Boilermakers had been losers of four games in a row until they defeated Minnesota, 77-74, in triple overtime in West Lafayette on Wednesday night. The triple overtime game wasn't the first multiple-overtime game that the Boilermakers had played this season; they dropped a 63-60 decision in double overtime at Northwestern on January 21st that was the first loss in their most recent slide. The win helped Purdue from falling farther down the Big Ten ladder, and kept them within two games of fourth-place.
The driving force behind that win by Purdue was center A.J. Hammons, who scored 20 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and swatted six Golden Gopher shots. The performance by Hammons made him only the third player in the NCAA this year to put up 20 points, 14 rebounds, and six blocks in a game. Not only was Hammons on fire for Purdue against Minnesota, but guard Ronnie Johnson almost registered a triple-double for the Boilermakers, scoring 11 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and racking up eight assists in 47 minutes on the floor. Purdue will have to buck recent history if they want to leave Value City Arena with a victory. Ohio State is 11-1 against Purdue at Value City Arena, with the lone win for the Boilermakers coming in February of 2010. Thad Matta has coached the Buckeyes to victories in five of the last six games that the teams have played overall.
The Buckeyes can't just focus their whole defensive gameplan on Hammons though, as the Boilermakers have some other threats that can hurt you. The Johnson brothers have packed a punch for Purdue this year, with Terone leading the Boilermakers in scoring in his senior senior, while sophomore Ronnie has put together some nice performances in his short career in West Lafayette. Ronnie is one of only three Boilermakers to have amassed 500 points and 200 assists by the end of his sophomore season, and only needs four points to reach 600 points. Along with the Johnson brothers, a nice face in the Purdue starting lineup recently has been Seattle University transfer Sterling Carter, who made his first start for the Boilermakers on Sunday at Penn State, and has averaged 9.5 points per game and four assists in his two starts so far.
These two teams met in West Lafayette on New Year's Eve in a game that saw the Buckeyes come away with a 78-69 victory in a hard fought game. LaQuinton Ross set career-highs in the victory with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Ross wasn't the only one setting career-highs that afternoon, as Shannon Scott pitched in 18 points to help Ohio State's cause. The real story in that game though was the play of senior Aaron Craft, who finished the game with seven points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, and four steals in the game. That performance, along with his performance in the next game against Nebraska, would end up helping Craft earn the Big Ten Player of the Week award for that week. Another big performance against the Boilermakers could help Craft to secure another one of those accolades, as he comes off one of the best games of his career in his 100th start for the Buckeyes on Tuesday night against Iowa.
The key for Ohio State lately is that they are getting a much more balanced attack on offense. In the last two games four Buckeyes have averaged double figures in scoring with Ross averaging 13 points per game, Craft averaging 12, and Amir Williams and Shannon Scott averaging 10.5. Not only are the Buckeyes getting the effort on the offensive end lately, but they are still strong on the defensive perimeter. Wisconsin and Iowa combined to shoot 6-37 from three-point range, with Iowa shooting a season-low 3-20 from beyond the arc on Tuesday night.
After beating ranked teams on the road in their last two games, the Buckeyes could be poised for a return to the Top-25 after a brief absence with a victory over Purdue on Saturday. Even if a win doesn't return the Buckeyes to the Top-25 next week, a win on Saturday is critical with Michigan coming into Columbus on Tuesday night followed by the Buckeyes heading back on the road to face Illinois. While the middle of the season slump that we've seen from the Buckeyes in past years was longer than previous ones, the Buckeyes look to be back on track and a win tonight would only solidify that.
Numbers to Know
Aaron Craft needs four field goals to become the sixth Buckeye to record 400 field goals and 4,000 minutes in a career while in Columbus. Four of the five already on the list (Buford, Diebler, Lighty, Butler) have come under the watch of Thad Matta, while the fifth was Herb Williams.
After their defensive performance behind the arc the last two games, Ohio State sits atop the country in three-point defense at 25.9%. The Buckeyes might be able to lower that number against a Purdue team that isn’t that deadly from long range. On the season the Boilermakers only have three players that have made more than 20 three-pointers.
Under head coach Matt Painter, Purdue is 78-5 when outrebounding their opponent and committing less turnovers in the same game. Two of those five losses have happened this season, with Purdue falling to Minnesota and Michigan when coming out on top in terms of rebounding and turnovers on the stat sheet.
Cast of Characters
Hammons had a monster game against the Buckeyes in West Lafayette, scoring 18 points, grabbing 16 rebounds, blocking five shots, and dishing out four assists. With that performance Hammons is still the only player in the NCAA this year to put up at least 15/15/5/4 in a game this year. Hammons has double-doubles in his last two games, and three of his last five.
The Purdue senior will play his last game at Value City Arena, and will be itching to get his first win there. This senior class of Purdue has won at every Big Ten arena except the Buckeyes’ home court. Johnson is leading Purdue in scoring this season, averaging 12.6 points per game. With three assists Johnson will tie coach Matt Painter for 20th in career assists at Purdue.
Craft made his 100th start as a Buckeye count on Tuesday night, accounting for 17 points, six assists, and six steals in the win over Iowa. With that performance Craft became the first Big Ten player since Michigan State’s Charlie Bell in 2001 to put up 17 points, six assists, and six steals. With four more assists Craft will pass Michigan State’s Scott Skiles for seventh all-time in the Big Ten.
With how stellar Hammons has been for Purdue lately, Ohio State is going to need all the help they can get down on the block. McDonald has seen his minutes increased lately, playing at least 11 minutes in the last three games, including 17 minutes in the win over Wisconsin. While McDonald won’t light up the stat sheet, the Buckeyes will just need him to give the team some strong minutes off the bench to help keep Hammons in check.