Ohio State looks to continue their climb up the Big Ten standings when they take on Purdue this afternoon. The Buckeyes will be trying to avoid their third straight loss to the Boilermakers at Value City Arena.
After losing to Wisconsin on Sunday, Ohio State didn’t let the setback get them down for long, as they defeated Rutgers 72-66 on Wednesday night. Ohio State started Big Ten play 2-6 this year, but since then the Buckeyes have won four of their last five games and now sit at 6-7 in the conference, which has them tied in the Big Ten standings with three other teams. The Buckeyes have a chance to make up a little more ground in the standings today, as they host a Purdue team that sits just half a game ahead of them.
Ohio State made things look pretty easy against Rutgers for most of the game, but the work they did almost was erased at the end. The Buckeyes led by as many as 20 points in the second half before Rutgers closed the lead to three with 27 seconds left in the game. The Scarlet Knights weren’t able to get any closer, as Ohio State hit closed out the game with a free throws from Andre Wesson and CJ Walker to secure the victory.
Following Sunday’s ugly loss to Wisconsin, Ohio State needed some of their veterans to step up, and that’s just what the Wesson brothers did against Rutgers. Kaleb Wesson scored a team-high 16 points, while Andre Wesson scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to record his second-career double-double. Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. also reached double figures in the scoring column, with the duo scoring 10 points each off the bench for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes extended their streak of hitting at least one three-pointer to 200 consecutive games, finishing the game with 10 triples. It was the ninth time this season that Ohio State has hit at least 10 three-pointers in a game. Kaleb Wesson was perfect from beyond the arc, hitting all three of his three-point attempts. Justin Ahrens added three triples off the bench for the Buckeyes, marking the third time in the last five games that the sophomore guard has hit at least three three-pointers.
Ohio State will now try and end their recent struggles against Purdue. The Buckeyes have lost four of the last five meetings with the Boilermakers, including both contests last year. Chris Holtmann has to be ecstatic that he doesn’t have to game plan for Carsen Edwards this year, who scored a combined 52 points in two meetings last year. After losing 79-67 in Columbus in January, the Buckeyes were drubbed by by the Boilermakers in West Lafayette in early March 86-51. In the second meeting Ohio State was without Kaleb Wesson, who was serving a suspension. Ohio State is 84-88 all-time against the Boilermakers, but the Buckeyes have had more success against Purdue in Columbus, posting a 54-30 record against the Boilermakers.
Kaleb Wesson continues to pace Ohio State in scoring this year with 14.1 points per game. With 1,145 career points, Wesson now sits 41st all-time in school history in scoring. With three more points Wesson will pass Frank Howard for 40th all-time. The junior has also been big on the boards throughout his career, recently grabbing his 600th career rebound. With 610 career boards, Wesson is now 22nd in school history, and five rebounds away from passing Jim Smith for 21st all-time in school history. If Wesson is able to pull down 11 rebounds he’ll pass Keita Bates-Diop for 20th in school history.
Much like Ohio State, Purdue has found success recently when the calendar turned to February. Some of that momentum was slowed on Tuesday night though, as the Boilermakers fell at home to Penn State 88-76, snapping a three-game winning streak. Purdue was done in by Penn State’s long-range attack, which saw them hit 14 three-pointers. The Boilermakers trailed 42-30 at halftime and weren’t really able to cut into the deficit, failing to get any closer than seven points in the second half.
Purdue’s Matt Painter is in his 15th year in West Lafayette as head coach of the Boilermakers, posting a 335-170 record at his alma mater. Last year Purdue made their deepest run in the NCAA Tournament under Painter, making it to the Elite Eight before falling in overtime to eventual champion Virginia. The Boilermakers have made the NCAA Tournament in five straight seasons, and 11 times in Painter’s 14 seasons.
The Boilermakers were led in the loss to Penn State by Trevion Williams, who scored a team-high 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Williams is Purdue’s most dynamic player, averaging 11.2 points pr game and 7.4 rebounds per game despite averaging just 21 minutes per game. The double-double against Penn State was Williams’ sixth double-double of the season. Oddly enough, Purdue hasn’t found much success when Williams records a double-double, as their record is just 1-5 this year in those games.
The only other Boilermaker who is averaging double figures in scoring this year is Eric Hunter Jr., who is scoring 10.5 points per game. After averaging just 12.6 minutes per game last year, the sophomore has seen his role expand this season, and is averaging 31.8 minutes per game. The guard has become a consistent source of offense for Purdue this year, scoring at least 12 points in each of the last four games, and hitting double figures in 18 of the last 22 games this year.
One Boilermaker who will be familiar to Buckeye fans is center Matt Haarms. It’s hard to miss Haarms on the court, as the Amsterdam native measures 7-foot-3. While Haarms might not grab as many rebounds as you’d expect a guy his size to, Ohio State will have to be careful about when they drive to the basket when Haarms is on the court, as he is averaging two blocks per game. The Buckeyes also can’t sleep on Haarms’ ability to score. Just a few games ago Haarms scored 15 points against Iowa, and earlier this year he scored 26 points in a double-overtime win against Minnesota.
Along with Haarms, two other Purdue players are averaging just under 10 points per game this year. After spending the last two years at High Point, Jahaad Proctor transferred to Purdue for his senior season. While Proctor isn’t quite scoring the 19.5 points per game that he averaged last year at High Point, he has been contributing more of late, scoring at least 15 points in three of the last five games.
The biggest outside threat for Purdue is Sasha Stefanovic, who has made a team-high 51 three-pointers and is averaging 9.1 points per game this year. The sophomore’s best shooting performance of the year came in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge when he buried six three-pointers in a 69-40 win over Virginia on his way to 20 points. Most will recognize Stefanovic’s name from the incident last month against Illinois when he was stepped on by the Fighting Illini’s Alan Griffin.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 64.2%
Purdue has had Ohio State’s number over the past few years, but this isn’t quite the same Purdue team. Gone are guys like Carsen Edwards and Isaac Haas, which gave opponents fits. Trevion Williams has been tremendous for the Boilermakers and is Purdue’s most productive player, but he hasn’t played at least 30 minutes in a game since a double-overtime loss to Michigan last month. If Kaleb Wesson can force Williams into a couple early fouls, the Boilermakers will have a tough hill to climb.
The Boilermakers are a lot like Ohio State. They have a talented, physical big who has been foul prone at times which leads to stretches on the bench. Most of both rosters are dominated by underclassmen with some upperclassmen sprinkled in. The difference is, Ohio State has a little more talent right now.
Both teams are trending upward, which makes this game hard to pick, but the difference in the end is going to be the home court advantage that the Buckeyes will have today. Luther Muhammad gave Ohio State a lift on Wednesday night and it will be interesting to see if he can build off of that performance. In the end, the Wesson brothers will end up being a little too much for Purdue. Ohio State is tested but makes it five wins in their last six games.