The No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team is heading into its toughest contest of the year as they face the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind., tonight.
Bragging rights are on the line, too, as the Boilermakers sit atop the conference standings with a perfect 12-0 conference record. Ohio State is just behind—their lone loss to Penn State is the only blemish on an 11-1 conference record. After the Boilermakers face Ohio State tonight, they head to East Lansing, Mich., to battle Michigan State on Saturday. Win the pair, and the championship is all but won for the Boilermakers. Drop one, and Purdue could lose out on the top spot in the conference tournament. If Ohio State wins, they’ll hold the tiebreaker over Purdue and have an inside shot at the No. 1-seed.
The Buckeyes are winners of two straight after falling to Penn State. Sunday, Ohio State completed a comeback win over Illinois, overcoming a double-digit first-half deficit for the 75-67 win. Keita Bates-Diop was once again the hero of the hour, leading the Buckeyes in scoring with 35 points and 13 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. Ohio State earned the win without Kam Williams, its best three-point shooter, who was suspended indefinitely prior to the matchup. The Buckeyes will be without Williams once again this evening.
Purdue is currently riding a 19-game win streak, and is undefeated at Mackey Arena this season. Most recently, the Boilermakers pulled out a narrow win at Rutgers Saturday. Led by seniors Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas, Purdue survived a second-half surge by the Scarlet Knights--a team that has won just two conference games.
Matt Painter is in his 13th season as head coach at Purdue, and is the second-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten behind Tom Izzo. He holds a 288-144 overall record with the Boilermakers. Painter has taken Purdue to the NCAA Tournament nine times with three Sweet 16 appearances, including one last season.
The Boilermakers lost just one player from last year’s starting lineup. Unfortunately for them, that player was Caleb Swanigan, last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year, who was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Painter is just 8-16 against the Buckeyes, but Purdue holds the all-time series advantage 86-83. Ohio State dropped its last game against Purdue last season 76-75 in Columbus. Overall, the Buckeyes are 813-714 against current members of the Big Ten.
Numbers to know
How many times Keita Bates-Diop has won Big Ten Player of the Week honors this season. In a closely-contested match against Illinois, the junior forward recorded a career-high 35 points--nearly half of Ohio State’s point total on the day. He also hit 13 free throws--another career high. This season, Bates-Diop leads the Big Ten in scoring with 20.2 points per game. He is also third in the conference in rebounding with 8.9 boards per outing. Tonight, Bates-Diop will be going up against Vincent Edwards, who, along with fellow Boilermakers Isaac Haas and Carsen Edwards, has one Player of the Week honor this season. Bates-Diop is also a strong contender for Big Ten Player of the Year. If he wins, he would be the first Buckeye to receive the honor since Evan Turner in 2010. Moreover, he was added yesterday to the late season Wooden Award watch list as one of the top-20 players in the country.
Purdue’s assist-to-turnover ratio, which is the best in the Big Ten and fourth in the NCAA. The Boilermakers are led by shooting guard Dakota Mathias, whose individual ratio is a mind-dumbing 3.3, good for 10th in the country. The Boilermakers are averaging just 11 turnovers per game. Mathias himself gives the ball up 1.4 times per game, but makes up for it with 4.4 assists per outing. While Ohio State’s 12 turnovers per game does not seem that far off from Purdue’s average, the Buckeyes coughed the ball up a whopping 15 against Illinois, with six coming from Bates-Diop alone. Ohio State currently boasts a 1.2 assist to turnover ratio, which has improved since the start of the season, but still reflects the turnover issues that Ohio State has faced. Against a team like Purdue, which does not make a lot of mistakes, the Buckeyes will have to play a much cleaner game than what they demonstrated against the Illini.
Purdue’s average from three-point range. That’s third in the NCAA and best in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers average 10 threes per game, and are led by senior guard P.J. Thompson and Mathias, both of whom are shooting above 45 percent from the perimeter. While the big men often get the credit at Purdue for their role in the paint, they have the added bonus of opening up the outside threat which poses a matchup problem for defenses. Ohio State, meanwhile, is shooting a respectable 35.5 percent from range on the season, but has already struggled in their single game without Kam Williams, their leading three-point shooter on the season. Against Illinois, the Buckeyes went just 3-for-16 from behind the arc.
Cast of characters
The freshman, who most recently started at center, is the Buckeyes’ most formidable big man on the floor this season, and he will have a lot to contend with this evening from Purdue’s front court. Wesson, a two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, has been one of the most reliable shooters on Chris Holtmann’s squad, connecting on more than 58 percent of his shots from the field. While his minutes are not as significant as Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate or C.J. Jackson, he is still averaging in double figures this season. He is also one of the hottest players in college basketball at the moment. Against Indiana, Wesson was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field. That mark came after a 4-for-4 performance in Ohio State’s loss to Penn State. The freshman has come a long way during his first season with the Buckeyes, and tonight will be a chance to see just how much he has improved.
While Wesson, Bates-Diop and Jackson have all emerged as vastly improved players this season, senior forward Jae’Sean Tate has quietly filled a supporting role that has been crucial to the Buckeyes’ success thus far. Last season, Tate led Ohio State in scoring with 14.3 points per game. This year, however, Tate has taken a step back as more of a role player, as the likes of Bates-Diop, Wesson and Jackson have all stepped up to pick up the pieces that Tate often carried alone previously. The senior is averaging 12.8 points per game this season, while his minutes have decreased from 32 to 30 per game. However, his field goal percentage has remained consistent, shooting greater than 55 percent from the field this season.
The senior forward from Middletown, Ohio is Bates-Diop’s top competition for Big Ten Player of the Year honors this season. Last week, like his Ohio State counterpart, Edwards played through illness to push his team to victories against Rutgers and Maryland. He recorded a team-high 18 points against the Scarlet Knights and, despite vomiting on his arrival in New Jersey for the game, played for 36 minutes. While he is behind Carsen Edwards (not related) in scoring, the big man has made adjustments heading into his final season as a Boilermaker and has become a force down low along with Isaac Haas. Edwards is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, including 41 percent from three-point range, and is highly-efficient on the offensive side of the ball. Against No. 25 Michigan last month, Edwards scored 30 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Ohio State will have its hands full with the pair of Edwards and Haas down low.
In a word, the senior center from Alabama is enormous. Seriously. He is 7-foot-2, 290 pounds, and, in his fourth year with the program, is finally the allegorical big man on campus with the departure of Caleb Swanigan. While there is little to knock from his first three seasons with the Boilermakers, Haas has come into his own this year, truly owning Purdue’s front court while averaging 14.5 points per game. Given his size and strength, few have been able to defend him one-on-one, and he creates a severe mismatch for defenses who attempt a double-team--something that has been a vast improvement in his play from previous seasons. A threat in the paint, Haas is shooting greater than 61 percent from the field on the season, and has been Vincent Edwards’ go-to outlet below the basket. Coincidentally, Haas has not attempted a single three-point shot his entire college career, but is surrounded by a myriad of sharpshooters from distance whom the Buckeyes will need to contend with.
How to watch
Game time: 8:30 p.m. EST
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM