When you're playing the No. 3 team in the nation on your home floor you have to play nearly perfect basketball. By this point in the season a team has likely earned any ranking it is given. The Buckeyes have done so on the back on stingy defense and unselfish offense led by Aaron Craft being a terrific passer. Purdue got an excellent game from the mercurial A.J. Hammons, but the game was really lost after a three-pointer by Terone Johnson with 15:37 left in the game.
That was a huge basket as TJ stepped into a rhythm three and tied the game after it looked as if Ohio State was going to pull away after leading by one at the half. It got the crow back into it, but what happened on the next few possessions is what really lost the game for Purdue:
Rapheal Davis missed layup.
Hammons tip-in of a miss by TJ to tie it at 46-46 after Shannon Scott had scored
Kendall Stephens missed three.
Bryson Scott missed jumper.
Those were four big possessions where Purdue had the basketball with a chance to change the timbre of the game by taking a lead. Purdue went 0-for-4. You knew a good team like Ohio State had a big run left in it. The Boilers needed to take advantage of the lull before the run by building itself a little lead. Instead, Purdue came up short on four straight possessions. Lenzelle Smith Jr. gave them the lead for good with a basket and Purdue had another chance to tie, but it was followed by a questionable foul on Bryson Scott and a downright awful block call on Basil Smotherman.
LaQuinton Ross scored on that call, and he then proceeded to pick Purdue apart even more for the rest of the half. The loose ball foul on Scott was close, but ultimately it came in the middle of the floor and served only to deny Purdue further possession after a loose ball was knocked around. The call against Smotherman was one of the worst calls I have ever seen. I know you have to be totally set to get a charge these days in college basketball, but unless you account for continental drift Smotherman was not moving and set up long before Ross even went into the shooting motion.
That was not the reason Purdue lost, however. The basket by Ross was merely part of a 14-5 run that allowed them to push the lead out to nine. In that run craft did what he does best: collapse the defense before kicking the ball out for a big three. Marc Loving hit one of those threes and Shannon Scott hit the other. Even though Ohio State was 2 of 17 from three until that point they were backbreaking threes that I even alluded to on Twitter.
The rest was academic for Ohio State. Ross hit some key baskets, including one off of an airball that just beat the shot clock, and Purdue was done in. In the end it comes out as a missed opportunity for Purdue. The Boilers played well, but it wasn't enough when you have a player like Craft creating good looks for his teammates and Ross having a monster game of 25 points and 12 rebounds. Scott also had a very quiet 18 points as an opportunistic scorer thanks to Craft.
It was still a good game from Purdue Hammons was a beast with and 18-16-5 game that, if repeated, will win Purdue more than its fair share of games in the Big Ten. Smotherman was once again very big on second chance points and the Johnson brothers did their usual scoring. Unfortunately, the other Little Things Purdue needed for this to be a win did not come. Stephens was scoreless from long range. Purdue was only 3 of 14 from long range, one of which came very late from Ronnie Johnson. Purdue dominated the glass, but a great defensive team like Ohio State continually slapped the ball away to the tune of seven huge steals. finally, Bryson Scott and Jay Simpson just had an awful game, while Sterling Carter couldn't hit the open looks he got.
In the end, Ohio State did what teams that want to win a Big Ten championship do: it won in a tough road environment when tested. Purdue still needs a signature win and will have plenty of other chances to get a few, even at Mackey Arena. Sunday's game at Minnesota is now a huge one because Purdue could use a huge road victory over one of those teams it is going to battle all season long for an NCAA bid. The next chance at a huge win comes on January 25 when Wisconsin comes to Mackey and Purdue very well could be 4-2 in the league when that happens. It probably needs to be that if it is going to contend.