Though Purdue has lost the last six meetings in the series between Ohio State and Purdue they have certainly been some exciting games in recent years. We had the game where Robbie Hummel absolutely went off in the first half only to have Evan Turner come back in the second and render Robbie's incredible first half moot. Then there was the last Purdue victory where E'Twaun absolutely went crazy against them. It definitely hurts that no player on the Purdue roster has actually beaten Ohio State. That's gotta frustrate you as a player. Purdue looked to remedy that tonight in Mackey Arena with an incredibly fun second half.
John Wooden Memorial Player of the Game (JWMPOTG)- I know the easy choice would be Rapheal Davis who scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds but I've gotta give this one to A.J. Hammons. The man was an absolute beast today. He played his heart out on both ends of the floor. He ended up with 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 blocks, to go along with a couple assists and steals. That's one hell of a stat line. He controlled the game at times.
The first half was slugfest between two teams who really are works in progress, but have played their best basketball as of late. It certainly helped Purdue's case that
McLovin Marc Loving did not travel with the team. Loving is an incredible three point shooter who shoots over 50%. Always nice to have a guy like that miss a game against your team. The first half saw many of the same themes of Purdue's recent winning streak. What are those themes you ask? Why, I'm glad you asked that. First, rebounding was an issue for Purdue. On at least six occasions Purdue got their hands on a rebound first but lost it to Ohio State. Most of these were on the defensive end and gave OSU yet another opportunity to put points on the board. That's been a real concern for Purdue of late after being such a strength early in the season. To flip that Purdue did a great job at the free throw line. In the first half Purdue was 8-8 from the free throw line. The third and final theme is the strength of A.J. Hammons and Rapheal Davis. The two went a combined 5-6 from the floor with Davis going 4-4 from the line. These two have really picked up their game in recent weeks and it's shown in the win loss column. Despite not particularly taking great care of the basketball whether that be with careless turnovers, they had seven in the first half, and a lack of rebounding Purdue actually went into half up 27-26. This gave me hope as Purdue has recently gotten into the habit of jumping on the other team to begin the second half. Purdue did just that again today.
A quick 9-2 run put Purdue up eight and gave us all hope that Purdue would step on Ohio State's throats and give us fans a nice enjoyable blowout in the second half. Alas, that was not to be the case. Instead, staying true to form, Purdue allowed Ohio State to get back into the game thanks to a combination of poor rebounding, confused offense, and poor ball handling. At one point the ever so subtle BTN announcers screamed that we should all mark down a particular Ohio State play as they went up by one point because it was a turning point. That didn't last. Purdue used smart passing and great hustle from everyone, but most notably A.J. Hammons. One particular series highlights this effort. Purdue had a sure defensive rebound but then, as they are wont to do, lost the handle on the ball. Rather than letting it go out of bounds Hammons ran after the ball and saved it three quarters down the court to a wide open teammate, Davis, who put it in for the easy bucket. On the very next possession Hammons had the ball at the top of the key and found a wide open Jon Octeus streaking through the lane. Another easy bucket. I don't know when exactly it happened but Hammons has turned into a junkyard dog type of player and I absolutely love it.
In what was one of the most surprising stats you'll ever see A.J. Hammons didn't get a shot attempt in the second half. After going 3-3 in the first half he didn't get any attempts. It's hard to believe. He was fouled on a couple attempts including being robbed of an and one when he was pushed while in the air. Regardless of that fact the guy dominated much of the second half with his hustle. He impressed me tonight and I'm sure I'm not the only one. As the game got down to crunch time it seemed like Purdue might run away with that once again as they went on a 10-0 run to push Purdue from down two to up eight with just 4:24 left. That's when I started writing this story. Unfortunately, Purdue didn't keep the pressure on. Ohio State, who had struggled at three all night, hit two of their next three attempts to whittle away at the Purdue lead.
With :33 seconds left in the game a D'Angelo Russell, who went all Nelson Muntz on the game and decided to do everything himself, three cut the Purdue lead to just two. This is what we in the business would call crunch time. It's a technical term. Purdue would shoot six free throws in the final :38 seconds of the game and make just three of them. This after going 8-8 from the line in the first half. Davis, Octeus, and Kendall Stephens each missed one. With :28 seconds left Purdue was up just 59-56. Everyone in the arena knew what was going to happen as Russell wound up shooting a three and missing. Unfortunately the defensive rebounding curse currently plaguing Purdue struck and Ohio State had the ball with :07 second left down three. Purdue used Davis to foul immediately on the inbounds to take the three pointer off the board. Russell hit both of the free throws cutting the lead to one. OSU fouled on the ensuing Purdue possession and Stephens hit 1-2 to stretch the lead to two. With just under :05 seconds left OSU took out the ball, they had not timeouts, and the Russell desperation heave for the win fell harmlessly to the floor. Purdue pulls out their fourth straight victory, including their third over a ranked opponent, to improve to 15-8 (7-3).
The last two minutes of that game seemed to last about half an hour. They also took roughly 2-3 years off of my life. That's been the life of a Purdue basketball fan this year. Things have tended to go down to the wire but as of late they seem to be breaking for Purdue. Tonight Purdue used an impressive defensive effort from guys like Hammons and Davis and offensive output from Davis, Octeus, and, surprisingly, Dakota Mathias. This was a great team victory here. Everyone on this team contributed and it shows you what they are capable of when they play as a team. That NCAA Tournament resume is looking better and better each game.