After Saturday's 100-65 loss to Maryland, Ohio State had a tough task in front of them in travel to West Lafayette to play the ranked Boilermakers. Early on the Buckeyes played strong, holding the lead for most of the first half. Ohio State received a boost from some effective shooting from beyond the arc, hitting their first four three-pointers.
Purdue responded to take a brief 29-28 lead with about three minutes to go in the first half, but the Buckeyes responded with a pair of Kam Williams three-pointers sandwiched in between a block by David Bell on the defensive end. Ohio State was able to take a 36-33 lead into the half, with Kam Williams leading the way for the Buckeyes with 14 points.
Purdue had a big advantage down low with A.J. Hammons, Issac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan, and it showed on the offensive glass. The Boilermakers pulled down eight offensive rebounds, but they weren't able to make the most of their extra opportunities in the first half, as they shot just 35.3% from the field. Hammons led the way for Purdue. registering 10 points in the first half.
Not much changed in the first 10 minutes of the second half, with lead changes and ties highlighting the action. Purdue was able to get some improved play from their big men, with Haas and Swanigan joining Hammons in double figures in scoring by the 10-minutes mark.
On the other side, Ohio State got almost nothing out of their starters during that time, with Jae'Sean Tate being the only starter to show at least some signs of life. After scoring nine points in the first half, Tate boosted his total to 15 points by the under-8 media timeout.
When Ohio State was leading 52-50 a three-pointer by Purdue's Ryan Cline started a 10-2 run. P.J. Thompson hit a three-pointer with just over six minutes to go to give the Boilermakers a 60-54, and forced Thad Matta to take a timeout to try and calm his team down.
The Buckeyes responded, with a 6-2 run behind four points from Marc Loving and a bucket from Daniel Giddens to cut the lead to 62-60 with about three minutes to go. A.J. Hammons gave Purdue a 64-61 lead with a basket and the Buckeyes immediately turned the ball over and a couple free throws gave the Boilermakers a five-point lead with 2:16 left.
The nail in Ohio State's coffin was another three-pointer from Thompson, which gave Purdue a 69-61 lead. The Buckeyes weren't able to get any closer, as Purdue was able to make their free throws at the end to earn a 75-64 victory. A.J. Hammons scored a team-high 16 points for the Boilermakers, and also added eight rebounds. Five Purdue players registered double figures on the score sheet in the game.
Jae'Sean Tate paced Ohio State with 17 points before fouling out late in the game. Kam Williams, who scored all of his 14 points in the first half, and A.J. Harris, who scored 11 points in the game, were the only other Buckeyes to reach double-digits in scoring. Ohio State was able to add to their impressive block total on the season, registering six blocks in tonight's game.
Ohio State will try and end their two-game losing streak on Monday night when they return home to take on Penn State at Value City Arena.
3 things we learned:
1. Ohio State's bench is key. After Saturday's performance in which the Ohio State bench only scored 16 points against Maryland, the bench returned in a big way against Purdue. In the first half Ohio State got 23 of their 36 points from the bench, with Kam Williams scoring 14 points and A.J. Harris adding seven points in the first 20 minutes. With Marc Loving and JaQuan Lyle being almost non-existent in the first half, tonight's game would have gotten out of control in Purdue's favor had it not been for the bench.
The second half was a lot of the same from the starters, with Lyle, Loving, and Keita Bates-Diop not contributing much on the offensive end. Daniel Giddens was able to give the Buckeyes some strong play on defense, but his offensive game still needs a lot of work. If the freshman is able to develop a shot from outside the paint, he could be tough to handle for opponents in the future.
2. Signs of life. While losses like Saturday's 35-point loss to Maryland and the 25-point loss to Indiana a few weeks ago aren't ideal, at least Ohio State has responded with strong performances following those blowouts. Ohio State did struggle in the first half against Rutgers following the Indiana loss, but they turned it on and pulled away from the Scarlet Knights in the second half. A lot more was learned by tonight's performance against Purdue, though. On the road for the fourth time in five games against a ranked opponent, it would have been easy for Ohio State to put forth a lackluster effort, but credit this team for playing tough.
Performances like tonight's mean a lot more than just a win or loss on the record. With such a young team, regrouping from an embarrassing loss like Saturday's will translate into bigger things not only later in this year, but also next year. With a lot of this roster likely returning next year, games like this will help them to trust each other more, and allow them to know they can respond from adversity.
3. Would the real Marc Loving please stand up? In the first two Big Ten games of the season, Marc Loving was a house of fire, scoring 20 points against Minnesota, and following it up with a career-high 27 points against Illinois. Since then the junior from Toledo has been largely invisible, only scoring a combined 37 points in the four Big Ten games coming into tonight. Saturday's performance was the worst of those games, with Loving scoring just three points on 1-8 shooting from the field.
Loving was a little better tonight against the Boilermakers, but he still wasn't nearly as effective as Ohio State needs him to be if they have any designs on sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. This feels like it's going to be Loving's legacy Ohio State career. High expectations after being named Ohio's Mr. Basketball coming out of high school, followed by plenty of inconsistency during his time in Columbus. Hopefully more performances like what was seen out of Loving against Minnesota and Illinois will be in store the rest of the year, but given his track record it's hard to count on that being the case.