On Saturday afternoon, the Ohio State Buckeyes (17-8, 7-7) had the opportunity to achieve something they had not done since the middle of December-have a .500 record in conference play. When the Buckeyes lost to Minnesota on December 15, their Big Ten record dropped to 1-1, and it would only get worse from there.
At one point the Buckeyes fell to as far 2-6 in conference play, and Final Four hopes quickly shifted to just wanting to make the NCAA Tournament. But after a long January swoon, the Buckeyes have turned it back on, winning five of their last six contests to bring their B1G record to 7-7. With a win on Saturday, Ohio State switched spots with Purdue in the standings, jumping to eighth place and sending the Boilers’ to ninth.
The Purdue Boilermakers (14-12, 7-8), were coming off a rare, clunky home loss to Penn State, 88-76. Penn State hit 14 of their 26 shots from deep (53.8 percent), as Matt Painter’s squad just had no answer for the Nittany Lions offensive assault.
Despite Purdue’s respectable conference record, their overall record on the season is less appealing, leaving their NCAA Tournament chances up in the air. A win in Columbus on Saturday could have certainly helped pad their resume.
Luckily for the the Buckeyes, Purdue would be denied that resume-boosting win, as Ohio State’s rock-solid defense led them to a 68-52 win inside the Schottenstein Center. Ohio State led this game almost the whole time, holding Matt Painter’s squad to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor, including a paltry 4-of-20 (20 percent) from 3-point range. Evan Boudreaux led Purdue with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Kyle Young, who seems like he is almost back to full strength following his appendectomy, led the Buckeyes with 16 points to go along with seven rebounds and an assist. Kaleb Wesson had a solid game minus his six turnovers, scoring 13 points while also pulling down eight boards and dishing out four assists.
As a team, the Buckeyes shot 48.9 percent from the floor, including a spicy 45 percent from 3-point range. Six different Buckeyes hit a 3-pointer, as Purdue struggled to defend the various weapons Ohio State deploys on the perimeter.
What were some key stats from Ohio State’s 68-52 triumph on Saturday afternoon? I picked out five numbers that were of instrumental in Ohio State’s win on Saturday:
The number of minutes Kaleb Wesson sat on the bench with foul trouble to the end the first half
In Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin, Kaleb Wesson was forced to take a seat with foul trouble late in the first half. During his six-minute hiatus the Buckeyes collapsed both offensively and defensively, letting a close game explode into an 18-point halftime deficit.
On Saturday, Wesson was once again saddled with his second foul at the 5:59 mark of the first half, and claimed a seat on the bench. At the time, the Buckeyes held a 12-point lead. However this time, Ohio State would not let the absence of their star player change the course of the game.
While the Ohio State offense fizzled out somewhat, scoring only five more points in the final six minutes, the defense stayed strong, limiting the Boilermakers to eight points. Their collective effort on the defensive end allowed Ohio State to head into the break with a 29-20 lead, despite Wesson’s absence.
The number Ohio State players who scored at least eight points
The reason Ohio State was praised early in the season as a Final Four contender, Big Ten favorite, so on and so forth, was because unlike last year, it appeared OSU finally had some capable weapons around Kaleb Wesson. Gone were the days when Wesson had to score 20 points and play 35 minutes per game in order for Ohio State to win.
Or so we thought.
During their January drought, they looked just like the 2018-2019 Buckeyes so many fans grew frustrated with. The team looked incapable of competing with other teams on both ends of the floor if Kaleb Wesson was not on it.
Today, Ohio State looked more like the early season Buckeyes (minus the 16 turnovers, yuck). Young (16), Kaleb Wesson (13), Luther Muhammad (11), CJ Walker (9), and Andre Wesson (8) all scored at least eight points against Purdue.
The number of points Kyle Young scored, which was a career-high
For the first few games following Young’s appendectomy, he looked a bit sluggish and not quite up to game speed. But after his career game on Saturday afternoon, it appears “KY” is back to full strength, grabbing rebounds and converting on almost every single shot he takes in the low post.
On a day when Kaleb Wesson had trouble handling the ball and looked a bit uncomfortable getting consistently hounded by Purdue’s combination of Trevion Williams and Matt Haarms, Young’s stepping up was huge for the Buckeyes.
The amount Ohio State out-rebounded Purdue by
For now, the Buckeyes are an undersized team. They added three big men to the roster this season with freshmen Alonzo Gaffney, E.J. Liddell, and Ibrahima Diallo joining the team, but neither Gaffney nor Diallo have played significant minutes yet. Because of that, the depth at the forward position is not great. Kaleb Wesson is 6-foot-9, while Young stands tall at 6-foot-8 and Liddell 6-foot-6. The Buckeyes will have nights where they are out-rebounded and shoved around a bit in the post, it comes with the territory when you’re one of the smaller teams in the B1G.
But today the Buckeyes out-worked and out-boarded the Boilermakers, 33-26. Despite not having a single player taller than 6-foot-9 on the roster, they were able to collectively out muscle the likes of Matt Haarms (three rebounds) and Trevion Williams (eight rebounds) on their way to victory.
The number of games separating eighth-place Ohio State from third-place Michigan State
The Big Ten is tight and congested, and because of that we shouldn’t count the Buckeyes out just yet. No, they probably will not be cutting down the nets for a conference title with seven conference losses, but 12 of the 14 teams in the B1G have five or more losses already. If Ohio State plays well down the stretch, they will certainly have a chance to finish in the top four of five, if not better.
The Buckeyes’ next action on the hardwood will come Thursday night on the road against the Iowa Hawkeyes (17-8, 8-6). Iowa is 12-1 this season inside the friendly confines of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET and that game will be broadcast on ESPN.