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Ohio State men’s basketball vs. Purdue: Game preview and prediction

The 2022-23 season has gone from bad to worse for OSU, and Sunday’s matchup with Purdue finds the Buckeyes taking on another far superior team in desperate need of a win.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Siri, play Hurt by Johnny Cash...

A painful 2022-23 season continues on Sunday for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, as they look to slay the Big Ten’s wounded Goliath in West Lafayette, Indiana. Chris Holtmann’s squad will take on the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers in Mackey Arena in search of their first win since Jan. 21.

The vibes around this OSU program are much different than they were on Jan. 5, when the Buckeyes nearly upset then-No. 1 Purdue. So different, in fact, that it feels like Sunday’s game is only likely to add more fuel to a burning ring of Scarlet and Gray fire.

After back-to-back homes losses against Northwestern and Michigan State, followed by a road loss to the last team they did beat (Iowa), Holtmann’s uneven roster of true freshmen and veteran transfers is amidst a full-on meltdown the likes of which Buckeye Nation has rarely seen. Currently 3-12 in conference play, Ohio State owns a putrid .200 Big Ten winning percentage, which would be the program’s worst mark since the 1997-98 season.

If you want to somehow feel better about this season, go back and read up on that ’97-98 campaign. I promise: 3-12 will not seem so bad.

The totality of results is not nearly enough to mask the stench of in-conference performance, either. The Buckeyes’ 11-15 overall record puts them four games below .500, meaning absent an unlikely winning streak, they will lose more than half their total games for the first time since 2003-04.

In reality, the only thing saving this current team from setting OSU’s low bar for futility is the back half of the Randy Ayers era and everything he left behind (Jim O’Brien gets a pass for ’97-98, in my humble opinion).

Worse than any win-loss record is the overwhelming appearance of regression. Just about every single player on the current roster seems to have plateaued or taken a step back since the calendar flipped to 2023. Some of this can be attributed to a difficult Big Ten schedule and/or many of Ohio State’s young contributors hitting the proverbial freshman wall, but coaching is supposed to (at least help) prevent such a massive fall-off.

Instead, decisions made at or near the top seem to be causing more chaos than cohesion, while also creating a collective “what the hell are we doing” curiosity — rather than fostering growth and progress.

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

So how does OSU right this ship? I have no idea. And unfortunately, it appears as if Holtmann is in the same boat (pun fully intended).

But alas, the season continues. The Buckeyes do not get to pack up and go home just because 2023 has treated them about as well as it has anti-alien truthers. Nor do they likely want to (pack up and go home). Because these guys are competitors. And because college basketball should not be taken for granted.

Players like Justice Sueing and Isaac Likekele do not have many of these opportunities left, so Sunday’s game at Purdue is one of their final shots at some sort of redemption during this difficult ‘22-23 season. Whether Ohio State capitalizes on said shot is a whole other story.


David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While overall season statistics might lead one to believe that Ohio State will match blows offensively with Purdue and potentially keep this game close, recent history tells a much different story. The Buckeyes are currently averaging 73.7 points per game, which is nearly identical to Matt Painter’s team (slightly better, if we’re splitting hairs).

But they have scored more than 70 just three times since Jan. 8 (11 games) — two of those coming against Iowa, a team with no known interest in playing defense. Holtmann’s squad was also limited to just 41 points (!) exactly one week ago; a performance for the ages, with an inherent ability to crater collective confidence.

Similarly, OSU’s leading individual scorer Brice Sensabaugh boasts a very respectable 16.3 PPG average, but he has not dropped 20 in a game since January. The potential one-and-doner has been mired in a terrible shooting and efficiency slump (10.5 PPG on 30% shooting in his last four), often exacerbated by questionable decision making. But many have absolved Sensabaugh of trying to do too much because whatever system or strategy was in place seems irreversibly broken.

Most possessions on most nights appear to be completely improvised, and as a result, the Buckeyes’ recent offensive execution has been deplorable. Sueing and point guard Bruce Thornton are doing their best to keep this Scarlet and Gray vehicle on the road, but their grip on the wheel is tenuous at best.

Zed Key’s lingering injury has also compounded Ohio State’s offensive issues. His relative ineffectiveness – although, look, give the guy a ton of credit for gutting it out – robs the team of their only dependable low-post option. Without his trademark efficiency and ability to at least threaten opponents around the rim, they are forced to rely on iso ball and copious amounts of jump shots. Just issue on top of issue, leading to a team with no offensive identity.

Unfortunately for Holtmann and his guys, Purdue is not the team you want to see when you are having trouble putting the ball through the hoop. Because Matt Painter’s squad plays an elite brand of defense, despite not ranking near the top in certain statistical categories. Zach Edey gets most of the attention for his play and presence in the middle, but the 7-foot-4 big man “only” averages 2.3 blocks per game. As a team, the Boilermakers average 4.0 BPG, putting them barely above average.

On top of that, Purdue never get steals! They actually rank near the bottom of college basketball in thefts. So there is not some impenetrable forcefield of inflatable arms surrounding the basket, similar to what you would see outside of a car dealership. Instead, they hold teams to 61.9 PPG by applying consistent pressure, playing fantastic on-ball defense, forcing contested shots, and not allowing offensive rebounds. It’s as simple as that. The Boilermakers just play intelligent, disciplined, hard-nosed defense, making life hell for their opponent.

Yet, despite their defensive acumen, Sunday’s home team has also fallen on hard times (relative term) recently, losing three of their last four games — with all three losses coming on the road. The Boilermakers’ visit to Assembly Hall produced an exciting intrastate rivalry game with Indiana, but after a bounceback home win over Iowa, they made trips to Northwestern and Maryland during which they were unable to score the basketball.

Fortunately for Purdue, they had established a considerable margin for error prior, so they remain comfortably atop the Big Ten. But after back to back sub-60 point offensive performances, Matt Painter’s guys will definitely be looking to rediscover their scoring mojo against OSU. And if Thursday night was any indication, the Buckeyes may be willing to facilitate.


Pain... But not for that team.

I think Ohio State shocks the world. The Scarlet and Gray are due for something, anything, just one single thing to go their way before the end of this season. And they owe Purdue! The Boilermakers have ripped the Buckeyes hearts out so many times in recent years that it feels like the basketball karma gods owe one of these teams significantly more than the other.

And call me crazy, but it feels like Purdue is vulnerable. The Boilermakers have lost three of four and looked absolutely horrific on the offensive end while doing so, which is always a possibility when only three players average more than 6.6 PPG. The team’s second-leading scorer, Fletcher Loyer, puts up 12 per on just 38% shooting, for goodness sake!

So this is not some offensive juggernaut. Their winning formula is feed Edey, hit some threes, and play stifling defense. If they fail to achieve all three, maybe OSU has a chance in this one.

The Buckeyes will need some luck. Chris Holtmann’s squad will have to catch fire and sustain a high level of efficiency, which feels like something that has not occurred since the Trump administration. But this is college basketball, where the unexpected is actually inevitable. And Sunday is Ohio State’s Super Bowl.

Give me the Scarlet and Gray in a stunner.

ESPN BPI: Purdue 84.8%
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET

LGHL score prediction: Ohio State 75, Purdue 74