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Give me a minute and I’ll change your mind, Give me a bullet and I’ll change your life

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Tonight’s game appears to be one of our most difficult of the season. Much like our trip to Penn State, we are a beat up team that needs to overcome multiple injuries. While Penn State has been a tough place to play lately for most Big Ten teams, The Schottenstein Center (or Value City Arena) has been a particularly tricky place to play for Purdue. Since the building opened in November of 1998 Purdue has not won a game there. Part of the reason is that we had some truly awful teams in that stretch. Another part comes from Ohio State having some really good teams. We haven’t done that well against the Buckeyes overall either, losing 16 of the last 18 games against them. Last year’s overtime loss in Columbus cost us the Big Ten championship.

This is another game I won’t be able to watch live, but the VCR is set for tonight. I have tickets to see Slipknot at the Pepsi Coliseum here in Indy. That’s somewhat appropriate, I guess. We keep getting beat up on the court and Slipknot is a band that makes you want to fight back. I highly recommend Gematria (The Killing Name) as a good fire up song before tonight’s contest. Hopefully the Boilers will be burning up the nets as The Nine burns down Indy tonight.

2008-09 record: 15-5, 5-4 Big Ten
2007-08 Postseason: Won NIT 92-85 over Massachusetts in final.
2007-08 Final record: 24-13
Blog Representation: Around the Oval, Buckeye Battle Cry, Eleven Warriors, Men of Scarlet & Gray, Buckeye Blog

Ohio State has been a difficult team to figure out since the departure of NBA first rounders Greg Oden and Mike Conley. They are on the cusp of being an NCAA tournament worthy team, but they have been unable to get that one extra win needed to secure a berth. They headed into last season’s Big Ten Tournament with a great chance to secure a bid, but lost their opening round game to Michigan State. That sent them to the NIT, where they reeled off five straight victories to win the NIT title. They started the year 0-7 against ranked teams before beating Purdue and Michigan State in their last two Big Ten games.

This year has been a little more of the same. Ohio State had three quality wins in a row early in the year, but those wins are losing value as those teams struggle. Beating Butler is still a very good win even after the Bulldogs finally stumbled last night. The Miami win is losing value because the Canes can’t win close games in the ACC. Notre Dame has lost five straight and now is a bubble team with a 12-8 record after being in the top 10. With those wins quickly losing value Ohio State needs to better its Big Ten resume. So far the Buckeyes have five wins in conference play, but two have come against Indiana and one against Iowa. They do have a sweep of Michigan as a nice way to distance themselves from the rival Wolverines.

Ohio State is somewhat similar to Michigan in that they have a player who does a little bit of everything. Hopefully Evan Turner can avoid throwing elbows this week because his numbers (16.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.1 apg) are very similar to Manny Harris’ numbers. He leads Ohio State in points and rebounds, while Jeremie Simmons (8.1 ppg) barely edges him in assists. Guards William Buford (11.4 ppg) and Jon Diebler (11 ppg) also score in double figures, but Ohio State will be without one of its biggest weapons in forward David Lighty.

Lighty was averaging nearly 10 points per game when an injury sidelined him after beating Jacksonville. That game against the Dolphins was his best of the season with 21 points and seven rebounds. He suffered a broken foot after that and has been out ever since. He may return before the season is out, but it won’t be tonight. With Lighty in the lineup the Buckeyes are a very versatile team. Lighty was only 6’5" and 220 pounds, but he was a combo player that could bang inside or step out and hit the three. This is still a young team as well. As a junior, they miss his experience on the floor. The rest of the main rotation of six has just one upper classman with Simmons being a junior.

The one player that does scare me is 7’ 275 pounds freshman center B.J. Mullens. He was one of the nation’s most sought after players out of high school a year ago and he has played well for the Buckeyes at times. He is a true center, but he is not a particularly strong rebounder for his size. He can dominate offensively or he can disappear (0 points vs. Indiana Saturday). He doesn’t need to do a lot on defense because Dallas Lauderdale (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) has emerged as a shot blocker extraordinaire. Lauderdale and our own JaJuan Johnson are the two best shot blockers in the league. In the words of one Ohio State poster on GBI this morning, all Lauderdale can do offensively is dunk like a beast.

Ohio State is not an especially deep team, especially without Lighty. They use an iron man rotation of six normally, with Mullens at center, Lauderdale at one forward position, and Simmons, Diebler, Turner and Buford as guards. Diebler is a major threat on the perimeter as one of the league’s best 3-point shooters. He hits at a 41% clip from outside and is third in the league in made triples behind Craig Moore and Talor Battle. Simmons and Buford can also step out and hit the three, but that is about it. Ohio State gets most of its scoring closer to the basket. That is shown in the stats as they are the best shooting team in the league from the field at 47.5%. That means they are getting high percentage shots and this will be a battle of our stout defense against their efficient offense.

Ohio State is somewhat prone to turnovers. They average 13 mistakes per game and Turner has the most turnovers for the year. Ohio State is also not a strong rebounding team, especially on the offensive glass. They only get 8.6 offensive rebounds per game, so a sure sign of trouble is if we let them dominate on the offensive glass early like Penn State did. Missing Lighty is actually beneficial to Ohio State in one area. He is just a 52% free throw shooter on the year, while most of the rest of the team is above 70%. The exception is Lauderdale, who shoots a Shaq-esque 45% from the line. We need to put this guy on the line early and often if we are needing to foul.

I would feel much better about this game if we weren’t so physically beaten up. Robbie Hummel needs rest, Chris Kramer is going literally fall apart on the floor one day. Grant and Johnson are still recovering from the flu. Lewjack was cleared to play, but coming back from a concussion is always a dicey proposition. We are fortunate that Ohio State is only about six players strong, but those six are really good players. Each has a specialty be it scoring (Turner), defense (Lauderdale), or 3-point shooting (Diebler). It will be up to our defense to maintain its intensity and wear them down.

Ohio State, as mentioned, is in search of a "name win" to bolster its NCAA resume. They probably need five more wins in the conference to assure they return to the NCAA’s, and since they are already done with Indiana getting those five wins would all be really good victories. They have already been swept by Michigan State, so Purdue is their best team remaining on the schedule.

This is the type of games that championship teams win. Only Michigan State and West Virginia have beaten them at home, but other than Butler those are the only two NCAA teams (as of now) that Ohio State has played at home. Butler even had a chance to tie in regulation with a 3-pointer that missed at the end. If you believe we’re better than Butler and West Virginia while being about equal with Michigan State then you think we will win this game. I like how we have been playing lately. We’ve had a great finishing kick and we’ve demonstrated an ability to pulls games out at the end. That will be needed tonight. We need to keep them from getting high percentage looks and hassle them into poor attempts. Purdue 68, Ohio State 65