Ohio State has been nearly unbeatable in Big Ten home openers under Thad Matta, but the Buckeyes will face a tough challenge tonight when they host Caleb Swanigan and the Purdue Boilermakers. In his 13th season at Ohio State, Matta has amassed an 11-1 record in Big Ten home openers, with the only loss coming in the 2014-15 Big Ten home opener against Iowa.
The Buckeyes found themselves down 11 points at halftime to Illinois on Sunday night, but a stretch of 16 straight points from guard JaQuan Lyle helped Ohio State claw back into the game. Lyle finished with a game-high 26 points, but his season-high scoring effort wasn’t quite enough to lead the Buckeyes to victory. Marc Loving and Kam Williams were the only other Buckeyes to reach double figures in the scoring column, scoring 10 points each.
Even though Lyle was the main source of offense against Illinois, Ohio State has been pretty balanced on offense this year. Currently five Buckeyes are averaging at least 10 points per game, with Jae’Sean Tate leading the team with 13.9 points per game. JaQuan Lyle, Marc Loving, Kam Williams, and Trevor Thompson are the other Buckeyes who are averaging double figures so far this year.
Ohio State is close to having a sixth player reach 10 points per game, as Keita Bates-Diop is averaging 9.7 points per game. Bates-Diop is still trying to work his way back into game shape after suffering a shin stress fracture during the offseason, followed by a sprained ankle against Providence early in the season which caused him to miss the next five games. In three of the last four games Bates-Diop has come off the bench to play 25 minutes, as the junior continues to show signs that he is getting closer to being fully healthy.
Ohio State and Purdue historically have played a close series, with the Boilermakers holding a slight 85-83 edge over the Buckeyes. Ohio State has had more success as of late, winning 25 of the 33 matchups since the start of the 1998-99 season, and Matta has posted an 18-7 record against Purdue. The Buckeyes have been nearly unbeatable at Value City Arena against the Boilermakers, winning 13 of 14 meetings, with the only Purdue win coming back in 2010. The last time these two teams met was last year in West Lafayette, with Purdue earning a 75-64 victory.
Purdue has split their first two Big Ten games this year, beating Iowa last Wednesday before falling in overtime to Minnesota in West Lafayette on Sunday. Swanigan registered his fourth game with 20 points and 20 rebounds this year, finishing with 28 points and 22 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Golden Gophers pulled away in overtime.
The Purdue offense has been outstanding all year long, scoring at least 80 points in 10 of 15 games this year. Currently the Boilermakers have scored 82 points or more in five straight games. The last time Purdue scored at least 82 points in six straight games was in December 1997. While Swanigan has shouldered a large amount of the offensive workload, he hasn’t done all the work himself. 13 times last year Purdue had a player score at least 20 points in a game. This year they have already matched that number, with five different players hitting that mark so far.
What has allowed for Purdue to put up such impressive offensive numbers has been how well they distribute the basketball. The Boilermakers are second in the country in assists, averaging 20.3 assists per game. Purdue has dished out at least 20 assists in eight of their 15 games this year. In the loss to Minnesota, Dakota Mathias became the first Boilermaker since Lewis Jackson in 2012 to register 10 assists in a game. Mathias and P.J. Thompson not only dish out assists, but they are great at protecting the basketball, as they are the only duo to rank in the assist-to-turnover ratio top 25.
Numbers to know
Thad Matta will get his second crack this year to try and break a tie for 13th on the Big Ten’s all-time regular season victories list. Currently Matta is tied with Harold “Bud” Foster, who coached at Wisconsin from 1935 to 1959. After Matta passes Foster he can set his sights on former Ohio State coach Harold Olsen, who won 154 Big Ten games from 1923 to 1946.
He is never the tallest player on the court, but more often than not Jae’Sean Tate plays like it. The junior is one of just two Power Five Conference players 6-4 or shorter to average at least six rebounds per game, with the other being Markelle Fultz of Washington. The 6.9 rebounds per game Tate averages ranks 11th in the country among players who are 6-4 or shorter. In the loss to Illinois, Tate was one rebound away from his fourth game of the season with at least 10 rebounds.
This year Purdue is shooting a lot better on the road from behind the arc than they are at home. The Boilermakers are shooting 52.6% from three-point range on the road, compared to just 35% at Mackey Arena. The three-point shooting has cooled at bit for Purdue though, as on December 11th they led the country, hitting 44.3% of their three-pointers. Since then the Boilermakers have shot just 33% from three over their last five games, dropping to 15th in country in three-point percentage.
Cast of characters
For most of the year Trevor Thompson has provided a spark for Ohio State off the bench. The junior has four double-doubles, which is the most among players who are averaging 22 minutes or fewer per game. Thompson’s minutes per game could be on the rise though, as the junior has started the last three games for the Buckeyes. Thompson will need to be at the top of his game tonight as Ohio State looks to slow down Caleb Swanigan.
The sophomore guard showed just how much of a game-changer he can be on Sunday, when he scored 16 straight points to help Ohio State get back into the game. Lyle ended up finishing the game with a season-high 26 points. While most of the focus was on Lyle’s scoring on Sunday, what might have been most impressive was the guard didn’t turn the basketball over in the game, marking the first time this season where he had zero turnovers in a game.
There isn’t a player in the country playing better basketball than Caleb Swanigan right now. The sophomore has been a monster this year for Purdue, averaging 18.5 points per game and 13.0 rebounds per game. Swanigan already has four games this year of 20 points and 20 rebounds. Over the last 20 years, there has only been two other games in which a Big Ten player has accomplished that feat. Swanigan is tied for the most double-doubles in the country this year, putting up at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in 12 of Purdue’s 15 games.
The junior guard from Indianapolis has the top assist-to-turnover ratio in the country so far this year, averaging 4.91 assists for every turnover. In 15 games this year, Thompson has only turned the basketball over 11 times. Since the beginning of last season, Thompson has committed zero turnovers in 29 games, with Purdue posting a 23-6 record during that span.
How to watch
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM