The Buckeyes handed the Boilermakers their first home loss of the season, as Ohio State escaped 78-60 by outscoring Purdue 45-29 in the second half. The win for Ohio State moved them to 7-1 in the Big Ten, and gave them a tie for first place with Wisconsin, who lost in Bloomington to Indiana 71-66.
With freshman center Greg Oden being limited to just 9 points Wednesday night, it was the guard tandem of Mike Conley and Jamar Butler that picked up the slack for Ohio State. Conley scored a career-high 18 points and Butler added 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field for the Buckeyes, who pulled away thanks to a spurt midway through the second half.
Ohio State used an early 11-0 run in the first half to gain a 24-14 advantage, but Purdue came back to close to within 33-31 at halftime. Foul trouble plagued the 7-1 freshman center, as he sat much of the first half with two fouls and then picked up his third foul early in the second.
Oden grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots. Freshman Daequan Cook had 9 points in the first half, 12 for the game and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Purdue led the Boilermakers with 16 points, despite shooting just 6-of-17 from the field. However, his quickness inside caused foul problems for the Buckeyes especially on Oden. Tarrance Crump was the only other Purdue player in double-figures with 11 points.
What Purdue Did Right and Ohio State Did Wrong
* Ohio State's defense in the first half was extremely poor. The help defense was virtually non-existent. Purdue also attacked the Buckeyes by beating them off the dribble. One particular mismatch was Ivan Harris trying to stop penetration by David Teague. Ohio State used a very good 1-2-2 halfcourt trap, but it was not effective because the Buckeyes were giving up too many open looks in the corner by not recovering across court.
* In addition to the defense, Ohio State's weakside rebounding was very suspect. Matt Terwilliger in particular lost his man on several occasions, and when he was in position for a defensive rebound, he was tipping and tapping everything that went his way instead of trying to grab possesion of the ball.
* Besides several physical frontcourt players to come at Oden in waves, Landry showed Wednesday evening that a quick, explosive player can cause problems with good footwork. Although the officiating was not popular among fans, Landry's athleticism put Oden in a position to be called with a foul.
* Freshman David Lighty has all the talent in the world. Sometime in his four-year career at Ohio State, and that appears to be what it will wind up as, Lighty is going to be a terrific player. He's explosive off the dribble, and he has a fluid release on his jumper. Most of all, he's a solid defensive guard that can defend against four positions on the floor. At this point, however, Lighty is still feeling his way around the offense. He's not confident in his perimeter jump shot, and trying to find a role within the offense of Ohio State, he's working hard to create shots with his quickness. The presence of Oden inside often causes defenders to shut off his penetration and he winds up altering his shot or blatantly contacting the defender and being whistled with a charge. When Lighty regains his confidence with his shot and the light bulb switches on, look out.
* Senior Ron Lewis made better decisions with the basketball on Wednesday. He did not take many il-advised shots and he exploited some quickness advantages when the lane was open. But Lewis found fewer minutes in the second half because of defensive issues. Lewis, much like Cook, sometimes sufferes from defensive attention deficit disorder, in my honest opinion. He'll play solid defense for 30 seconds on the shot clock, but turn his head for a split second and miss fighting through a screen or give just enough space for a jump-shot.
What Ohio State Did Wright and Purdue Did Wrong
* Hail, hail to freshman point guard Mike Conley who played his best offensive game of the season. Conley has always been able to beat his man off the dribble. However, now he's slowly hitting outside jumpers, he's pulling up for mid-range shots, he took a baseline jumper with his right hand and he's still making lightning crisp, accurate passes to open teammates. Nearly every run made by Purdue on Wednesday was done when the offense went without scoring - and that was usually when Conley left the floor. Oden might be the foundation of Ohio State, but Conley is the adhesive that holds the foundation together.
* Purdue did a terrible job defending Ohio State in transition. The Buckeyes made no fewer than 20-30 points on Wednesday scoring off the fastbreak or secondary break. The Ohio State guards, including Butler, Conley, Lighty, Cook and even Lewis, all made several key spots finding a teammate up ahead open for a shot or layup. Credit Butler, who in the past has intentionally slowed things down, for often pushing the break.
* Speaking of Butler, have you noticed the increased intensity from him recently? Butler's scoring average, shooting percentage and assists have all increased over the past 3-4 weeks. Butler is showing emotion and developing ice in his veins with wanting the ball for big shots. What's more is that he's making them. The transition to shooting guard, although somewhat exaggerated because of the amount of times he has the ball in his hands, has finally been made and Butler has become a solid two guard.
* Credit the play of Othello Hunter who had a very critical first half for the Buckeyes. Hunter has been a quiet but sometimes important presence for Ohio State. He made several key deflections and blocks defensively, was active on the offensive boards and also has become a very solid screener on the perimeter.
* I'm becoming more and more of a fan of Ohio State's two-man game. Although I prefer more motion and less standing offensively, with proper spacing, Ohio State's two-man game involving Butler, Conley, Cook, Oden or Hunter can be extremely effective. Plays like the give-and-go, pick-and-roll or simply making the defense react to those plays for easy penetration make the Buckeyes a very effective team when they're not forcing shots. For recruiting purposes, this NBA style can be extremely appealing to a prospective recruit.
With Wisconsin falling into a tie with Ohio State, Saturday's game against Michigan State for the Buckeyes becomes that much more important. At this point in the season, it becomes necessary to "steal" victories on the road. With a win in East Lansing against the Spartans, Ohio State would have a leg-up on the Big Ten Championship race as Wisconsin has to return to Columbus.
A loss, however, and Ohio State would be once again a game behind and it would be necessary to beat Wisconsin just to regain the tie. That also means they could not win the conference outright without help. Further, Ohio State winning at the Breslin Center would be another nice victory in their quest for a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The win Wednesday evening for the Buckeyes was arguably their best of the season. They sustained every comeback attempt by Purdue and answered with a run of their own. Their defense was poor at times, but it did not buckle. Most importantly, it was the most fluid offense of the season for Ohio State when you consider they played two halves of basketball.
Purdue plays very tough at Mackey Arena, and it was easy to see why that is. However, Ohio State went into a tough road environment and responded with an 18-point victory. Should they play like that for 40 minutes on Saturday, the Buckeyes will have a chance to knock off the Spartans for the second consecutive season.