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A kick to the nuts? Purdue visits Ohio State

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So this is a big one. Tonight the Boilers head to Columbus for our biggest Big Ten regular season game in years. It is probably our biggest game since we went to Indiana two years ago and lost a crucial contest that ended up costing us the Big Ten title. Before that, you probably have to go back more than a decade to find as big of a game. That is why we need some nicknames first.

You readers have been phenomenal in the open threads when it comes to coming up with different nicknames for the guys. I have assembled the following list, with three open spaces that need to be filled:

Player

Nickname(s)

JaJuan Johnson

JJ

Robbie Hummel

The Ostrich

E'Twaun Moore

Smooge, The Smoogernaut, The Assassin

Chris Kramer

Secretary of Defense, Master Thief

Kelsey Barlow

GDB (Godammit Barlow!)

John Hart

The Hitman,

Lewis Jackson

LewJack

Keaton Grant

KG

Mark Wohlford

The Accountant

Patrick Bade

(Open for debate)

D.J. Byrd

(Open for debate)

Sandi Marcius

(Open for debate)

Bubba Day, Dru Anthrop, Stevie Loveless, Kyle Coleman

The Walk-On WhiteOut

 

Obviously, we need something for Byrd, Bade, and Smith. It can't be derogatory, either, so calling Byrd and Smith "Brick" for their recent shooting woes won't help. These guys have struggled lately, along with KG, so we need to come up with something in order to spur them on. As usual, if this works and they start raining threes on people's heads on the way to the Final Four I'll take full credit in the form of cash deposits to my Paypal account.

Another look at Ohio State:

Seriously though, this is the game that, in my opinion, will decide the Big Ten title. A Boilermaker win puts Purdue in the driver's seat with five games to go. The two toughest ones of those five would be in Mackey Arena. A loss is doubly crippling because we then must rely on Michigan State or someone else to take out a smoking hot Ohio State team. Even then, we would be a step behind in terms of seeding for the Big Ten Tournament because the Buckeyes would have the tiebreaker over us.

Getting the 1 seed means a noon game on Friday against the 8/9 winner (likely Indiana vs. Michigan). That gives us the most rest before Saturday's semifinals. Getting the #2 seed is almost a detriment because we would then be playing the latest possible game, likely finishing after midnight, against the 7/10 winner (likely Minnesota vs. Iowa). Because of those times, I would much rather play at noon on Friday than 10pm or later. Falling to the #3 still means a Friday evening game, but against the 6/11 winner (probably Northwestern vs. Penn State). I want no part of Northwestern again because they are such a horrible matchup for us. They would also be a desperate team facing what is essentially an NCAA elimination game.

So, as much as I want another Big Ten championship banner, this game is critical for our path to a repeat Big Ten Tournament title in Indy. That has some impact on NCAA seeding, though I think our seed will not change much as long as we win at least one game at Conseco. If we win two and reach the final we're even more set no matter what happens in the championship. We can help ourselves by getting that #1 seed and getting even close the more important #1 seed. The biggest remaining step is tonight in Columbus.

2008-09 record: 22-11, 10-8 Big Ten (lost to Siena 74-72 in NCAA Tournament first round)

2009-10 record:

Blog representation: Buckeye Battle Cry, Eleven Warriors, Men of Scarlet & Gray, Buckeye Blog, Club Trillion (The Personal blog of walk-on player Mark Titus)

Series with Purdue: Series tied 81-81 (This is the only series in which Purdue does not have a winning record against a Big Ten opponent)

Last Purdue win: 3/15/09 in Big Ten Tournament (Indianapolis) 65-61

Last Ohio State win: 1/12/10 at Purdue 70-66

Last Purdue win in Columbus: 107-75 on 2/7/1998

I was very blunt in my assessment of our previous game at Mackey Arena: We choked. There is no other way to explain it. There is no excuse to ever blow a 10 point lead at home with less than four minutes to play. It was really a combination of things. JJ had a callow performance, shying away from the moment. E'Twaun missed three absolutely critical free throws in the closing minutes. One came on the front end of a one-and-one, so that is like four misses. Everyone not named Robbie Hummel stood around and watched Robbie. They also stood in awe as Evan Turner took the game over. We rarely challenged him, and we refused to put forth effort to rebound when he created second chance opportunities for himself. It was a pathetic effort in the last five minutes, uncharacteristic of what we have expected of this team.

The key to this game is remembering the team we were in the first 36 minutes of that January contest. Even then, there need to be changes. We relied too much on Robbie going absolutely nuts in the first half. That stopped us from rotating the ball and getting everyone involved. We cannot beat good teams like Ohio State with individual efforts. We need to play like we did in East Lansing where everyone was involved via scoring, defense, assists, steals, etc. Even when Robbie was doing his thing in the first half against the Buckeyes we were not doing those little things. Ohio State then adjusted to take those things away, got out on Robbie, and we looked completely confused.

One critical factor in this game will be Jon Diebler, who may be limited with a wrist injury suffered late against Illinois. Diebler and his near 14 points per game is a huge factor in Ohio State's offensive balance. If Diebler can't go or is limited I look for Jeremie Simmons, a dangerous 3-point specialist, to see more minutes. David Lighty, William Buford, and Turner are all dangerous scoring options that we can't ignore, but we're in even more trouble if Simmons is hitting from outside and Dallas Lauderdale is doing the one thing he can do: dunk. If he gets open down low for a dunk we have to foul him. He is an awful free throw shooter. I am talking sub 50%. He also hurt poor Mark Titus, ending his career with a torn labrum.

Ohio State has only lost a tough road game at West Virginia since we last met. They are the only team in the conference that is playing as well as we have been lately. Honestly, I think they are playing even better. Both teams have had recent impressive road victories over Michigan State and Illinois, respectively. Something has to give in this one.

There is also our history in the Schottenstein Center. We have none. We have never won in the building (the only current Big Ten venue where we can say that). Our last two games there have gone to overtime, but we were unable to pull them out. With another great recruiting class coming in next season for the Buckeyes this could be our best shot for some time.

JJ is the key to this game. If he has another timid performance like he did in the first game we have no chance. I am concerned because he has dodged foul trouble for awhile, so it almost feels like he is due for a foul trouble game like last year at Michigan. We should cringe if we see Ed Hightower tomorrow night, because in that Michigan game a year ago the officials made the conscious decision to remove JJ from the contest. It would be a shame to see that happen again in what should be a fantastic game.

Keys to the game for Purdue:

  • Get JJ more involved (4 points, 5 reb. In game 1)
  • Keep JJ out of foul trouble
  • Share the ball in the flow of the offense
  • Do not fear Turner, deny him the ball
  • Guard the perimeter
  • Keep an eye on Buford (19 points in game 1)
  • Hit free throws and get to the line

Prediction: Purdue 68, Ohio State 67