After weeks of build up, Wednesday night brought the long-awaited battle between the two top teams in the Big Ten standings. Just as they did to then-No. 1 Michigan State, the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes (21-5, 12-1) knocked off the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers (23-3, 12-1), 64-63.
The Buckeye victory ended a 19-game winning streak for the Boilermakers, and came in an unusual fashion for OSU. While Keita Bates-Diop led the way for the Buckeyes, as usual, Ohio State had major contributions from some players that don’t normally factor heavily in games.
In the second game of his indefinite suspension, the Buckeyes missed the senior leadership and outside threat of Kam Williams. With one less consistent contributor in the rotation for head coach Chris Holtmann, fouls became more damaging and less experienced players were called upon to contribute in the biggest game of the conference season.
Andre Wesson ended up playing 36 minutes, and with his younger brother Kaleb in foul trouble, he surprisingly provided a steady defensive presence down low, while also adding 13 points, including going 3-for-5 from behind the arc.
Early on it was clear that Purdue head coach Matt Painter wanted to try and exploit the size difference down low between 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas who was guarded by 6-foot-9 Kaleb Wesson. Haas got the better of the matchup on the first offensive possession for the Boilers.
From an offensive standpoint, the Buckeyes looked overwhelmed on the first few trips down the court. Purdue forced a shot clock violation on the first possession, and Keita Bates-Diop air-balled a three on the second. Bates-Diop started the game 0-for-3 from the field, and OSU missed a number of bunnies early on as they tried to adjust to the big-game environment in Mackey Arena.
Ohio State missed their first seven shots before Jae’Sean Tate hit a circus layup, and then stole the ball at the top of the key leading to a layup for C.J. Jackson. On the next possession, Jackson was the one to get the steal, and then he left it for Bates-Diop on the fastbreak—and the Buckeyes took a 6-5 lead.
C.J. Jackson is out here thievin'.— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) February 8, 2018
His back-to-back steals for @OhioStateHoops lead to two buckets, including a @KBD_33 jam: pic.twitter.com/j40vWGr3mY
Early in the game, Purdue’s defensive pressure forced the Buckeyes into some less than ideal offensive situations, resulting in a number of ill-advised shots from deep from players like Musa Jallow and Kaleb Wesson. The Buckeyes ended the first half with seven turnovers, and Purdue converted those into six points.
Of course, it also helps to have a little bit of luck. Haas found himself open down low, and despite having no defensive pressure from Kaleb Wesson, the Boilermaker big man missed the uncontested dunk. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, on the next Purdue possession, Haas completed an old-fashioned three-point play, which also resulted with Wesson picking up his second foul in the first 11 minutes of the game.
At the under-eight minute media timeout, Purdue held a 14-13 lead. Six players had scored for OSU— no Buckeye had more than one bucket—while all of Purdue’s points had come from Haas (10) and sophomore guard Carsen Edwards (4).
With Williams suspended, Andre Wesson was the beneficiary of increased playing time, and he made the most of it in the first 15 minutes. He connected on two deep baskets, including one from behind the arc. However, in the very next possession after his three-pointer, his brother, Kaleb, picked up his third foul of the first half and sat down for the remainder of the period with 5:08 in the half. With the younger Wesson on the bench, Kyle Young was pressed into action. And despite the true-freshman’s tenacity, he was not able to do much to keep Haas from continuing his scoring barrage.
After Tate had his layup attempt blocked by Haas, Purdue went the other way and Edwards hit a jumper to go up 31-22—the Boilermakers’ largest lead of the game. However, on the next possession, freshman Musa Jallow hit a corner three to keep it close. Then with time running down in the first half, Bates-Diop drew the defensive attention, and found Tate underneath. The senior converted a layup to cut the Purdue lead to 31-29 at halftime on the strength of a 7-0 Buckeye run.
Purdue looked like they'd take a large lead into half, but @OhioStateHoops stormed back.@KBD_33 finessed this feed to @o_tate_, and the senior made sure the Buckeyes only trail by two at the break: pic.twitter.com/sXj7UlHORd— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 8, 2018
Neither team opened the game shooting exceptionally well, but both found their stroke later in the half. OSU finished going 11-for-26 (42.3%) in the first 20 minutes, while Purdue was 10-23 (43.5%). Both squads were just 33.3 percent from downtown in the first half, with OSU hitting 3-of-9 and Purdue going 2-of-6.
Dakota Mathias was the only Boilermaker not named Haas or Carsen Edwards to score when he hit a three pointer, while seven Buckeyes got in the scoring column, led by Bates-Diop’s eight.
Other than the home team getting to the line twice as much as the Buckeyes, most of the stats were fairly close between the teams, as the score would indicate.
With Purdue up 33-31, Kaleb Wesson picked up his fourth foul of the game— a rather suspect call—with 16:52 left in the second half.
The Buckeyes kept it close following Wesson’s exit, but that also coincided with Purdue starting to find its stroke from deep. Following a Haas layup to open the half, the next four buckets for the home team were all from behind the arc. Purdue used their suddenly hot shooting to open up a 45-36 lead with 13:16 remaining. Carsen Edwards began taking over the game, hitting two of those three-pointers.
To counter, Holtmann went with a small lineup to try and jump-start the Buckeye offense. However, OSU missed five of six shots, allowing the Boilermakers to increase their lead to 51-39 following Carsen Edwards converting a four-point play thanks to an unnecessary foul from Jallow.
Biggest splash of the evening so far comes courtesy of @Cboogie_3. ☔️— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 8, 2018
Give the @BoilerBall star ALL FOUR of these in a critical stretch. pic.twitter.com/OSWcIoWrfJ
The lack of size on the defensive end wasn’t enough to cool down the Boilers’ shooting, but from an offensive standpoint, because of their additional quickness, the Buckeyes forced Purdue into foul trouble early in the second half. However, that wasn’t necessary always a great thing, as OSU missed four of their first eight free-throws of the half.
Eventually, the smaller lineup was able to figure out the Purdue defense, and they were able to get back into the flow, moving the ball to find an open man, rather than continually allowing a single ball-handler to isolate his man in an attempt to create his own shot.
The renewed offensive movement allowed OSU to go on a 9-0 run, including a physics defying basket from Bates-Diop, who laid it in as he was floating towards the basket, facing away from the hoop.
No. 14 @OhioStateHoops isn't going away, especially thanks to plays like these from @o_tate_ and @KBD_33.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 8, 2018
And it's a #BTNStandout Presented by @Discover: pic.twitter.com/CBmwDBvs2b
The Buckeyes weren’t done from there. A tenacious defensive effort from the under-sized lineup saw the Buckeyes cut the Purdue advantage to 58-57 with just under four minutes remaining in the game thanks to an Andrew Dakich layup.
Interestingly, with time running down, Holtmann kept Kaleb Wesson on the bench in crunch time. With Williams not playing, and Kaleb in foul trouble, his older brother Andre was a valuable contributor on both ends of the floor.
With Purdue missing on six-straight attempts from the field, Andre Wesson banked in a three-pointer to give OSU a 62-60 lead with 60 seconds remain. Vincent Edwards, who the Buckeyes had kept quiet for most of the night, hit a shot while being fouled by Bates-Diop, giving Purdue the one-point lead again.
After a smothering defensive effort from Purdue, a Dakich offensive rebound with 22 seconds remaining gave the Buckeyes one final shot. After a Tate drive, Bates-Diop put back an offensive rebound to give OSU the 64-63 lead with just under :03 remaining.
Purdue’s inbound pass went the length of the court, and Haas had a shot to win the game, but it went wanting, giving the Buckeyes the top spot in the Big Ten Conference.
Bates-Diop was the top scorer for the Buckeyes with 18. He picked up another double-double with 11 rebounds on the night. Carsen Edwards led all scorers with 28 points, but as was the case for most of the game, the scoring was limited from the Boilermakers. Haas had only two of his 18 points in the second half, guarded mostly by Andre Wesson. Vincent Edwards add in 11 to go with Mathias’ six.
With Williams not available, Jallow finished with 10 points, after not having scored since Jan. 4 against Iowa. Tate also finished with 10 points, to go along with five assists and four rebounds.
The Buckeyes will be back at home on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET against Iowa. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.