Playing without Marc Loving, their second leading scorer, Ohio State found themselves in an ugly game at Purdue, losing 60-58, as their furious comeback came up just short.
Like a lot of Ohio State's games, this one didn't win any beauty contests early on. Ohio State committed five turnovers and had three of their shots blocked in the first ten minutes of the game, while Purdue picked up four quick fouls, clinging to an 11-10 lead. The two teams went back and forth throughout the half, with neither team able to get more than a few points separation. Purdue was able to build a 27-26 lead at halftime thanks to their 8-8 performance at the free throw line, and from A.J. Hammonds' six points and four blocks.
Ohio State, despite giving up some serious size in the frontcourt, actually outrebounded Purdue in the first half. D'Angleo Russell led the Buckeyes with 10 points, while Jae'Sean Tate added six. All three of Ohio State's big men picked up two fouls. Shannon Scott was 0-4 from the field in the first half, and the Buckeyes were 0-5 from downtown.
Purdue widen that lead in a hurry, going on a 9-2 run to push the margin to eight, thanks to a timely three from Dakota Mathias, an Ohio native. The Buckeyes clawed back to within a point by the 13 minute mark after Kam Williams hit the first threeball for Ohio State, and the teams continued their neck and neck barrage, punctuated by continuous fouls and missed jumpers, with Ohio State finally grabbing a 41-40 lead at the nine minute mark. The Buckeyes found themselves in the double bonus with over eight minutes left though, giving Purdue multiple chances at the stripe.
A final 9-0 run, including an amazing outlet save and pass from Hammons, pushed Purdue far enough ahead to close out of the game. The Buckeyes were completely unable to secure any kind of offense as Hammons locked down the paint. A furious Buckeye comeback trimmed it to a 59-56 game with only 28 seconds left, but Ohio State was unable to claw back in time.
Ohio State was lead by D'Angelo Russell's 20 points. Amir Williams had 10, while no other Buckeye scored in double figures. Purdue's Rapheal David paced the Boilermakers with 20 and six rebounds, while A.J. Hammons had seven points and seven blocks.
Three things we learned
1) Ohio State needs Marc Loving back if they want to make a run at a Big Ten title. Right now, we don't know why Marc Loving wasn't playing, or what his timetable is like, but for the sake of Ohio State's offense, they should hope that his absence is a short one. Purdue was able to close off the paint and force Ohio State to take tough shots and long twos, without Loving's floor spacing ability. Bates-Diop is also a bit of a defensive downgrade, although he has lots of potential. Loving can do things that most Buckeyes can't do right now, and without him, there isn't a super dependable second option, freeing defenses to tee off on Russell. Some nights, he can carry the team on his back, but that isn't sustainable for Ohio State.
2) Purdue is a unique, but difficult, matchup. Ohio State is a good, but flawed team, but not every team is capable of exploiting those flaws. Purdue, with huge size down low, can. The Boilermakers were able to get and keep Ohio State's bigs in foul trouble, and Hammonds was able to very effectively defend the rim, preventing drives when Ohio State wasn't hitting from deep. Outside of perhaps Wisconsin, nobody else remaining on Ohio State's schedule can really attack the Buckeyes in that exact way. Not having Loving made this even more difficult. Don't draw TOO many sweeping conclusions from a game that would have been tough for the Buckeyes either way.
3) There are no nights off. Ohio State can feel pretty good about themselves after knocking off Indiana and Maryland and crawling back into the Top 25, so their place in the NCAA Tournament, baring a huge collapse, is likely secure. But as tonight showed, anybody left on Ohio State's schedule can beat them. Penn State will be tricky, there are road games against both Michigan schools, and a rematch with Purdue looms. Ohio State may have the advantage here in advanced stats, RPI, and whatever computer ranking you want to use, but without a consistent and strong effort over 40 minutes, the Buckeyes won't be able to sustain any gains they make from their big wins.