I don’t want to call tonight’s game a must-win, but if Purdue is to win the 2017 Big Ten title it is as close to a must-win as you can get. I think many people looked at the first three games of the schedule and thought that if Purdue had to drop one, it would come in Columbus. After all, Purdue is 1-13 all-time in the Discount Crappy Furniture Arena and the Buckeyes are the only long term Big Ten opponent with an all-time winning record against our Boilers. Ohio State isn’t as good this year as they have been in past seasons, but they are a fringe NCAA team. Most people would expect a loss against them instead of a home loss to Minnesota.
Well, Purdue dropped said Minnesota game. That narrows the margin for error and now it means Purdue has to go out and get one back on the road. If 14-4 is going to be enough for a share of the Big Ten then Purdue needs to win its remaining eight home games and go 6-3 on the road. Purdue should win at Iowa, Nebraska, and Penn State, leaving Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Northwestern, and Michigan as the other six places it must visit.
It is also critical to get a win tonight with Wisconsin, the prohibitive conference favorite, coming to West Lafayette on Sunday. Getting to 3-1 after Sunday would be a great start towards winning the Big Ten, especially since the Boilers would then hold the tiebreaker with Wisconsin. If you lose tonight, however, you’re suddenly in danger of being 1-3, on a three-game losing streak, and out of both the national rankings and the Big Ten race.
So yeah, this is a big game. How will Purdue respond?
Ohio State Buckeyes
From: Columbus, OH
Date: Thursday, January 5, 2017
Tip Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Columbus, OH
Arena: Value City Arena (19,049)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 3.5
2015-16 Record: 21-14, 11-7 Big Ten (lost to Florida 74-66 in NIT Second Round)
2016-17 Record: 10-4, 0-1 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Land-Grant Holyland
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 89-85 (Thad Matta is 17-9 vs. Purdue, Purdue is 7-25 vs. OSU since 1998).
Last Ohio State Win: 65-61 at Ohio State on 3/1/2015
Last Purdue Win: 75-64 at Purdue on 1/21/2016
NCAA Tournament History: 31 Appearances, last in 2015. 1960 National Champions
The recent history with the Buckeyes has not been kind to Purdue. Ohio State has a commanding 25-7 advantage over Purdue since the end of the 1998 season. Five of those wins have come in Mackey Arena with one coming in the Big Ten Tournament in 2009. Purdue’s lone win in Columbus in the last 18 seasons came in 2009-10 when the Hummel-Moore-Johnson trio won 60-57 after blowing the previous game in West Lafayette.
A large reason for that is that Ohio State has been very, very good for most of the last 18 years. Of the 32 games between the schools in that time the Buckeyes have been ranked in the top 5 seven times (including twice as No. 1) and in the top 10 an additional three times. They have been a nemesis for Purdue unlike anyone else in the conference, and it has allowed them to shift the all-time series in their favor by four games. Aside from Maryland (who is only 2-1 against Purdue), the Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team with a winning record against us.
Tonight provides an excellent chance to turn back against that recent history. Ohio State is good, but not nearly as good as they have been. Last year Purdue won in West Lafayette by 11 over a Buckeye team that missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. This year they are better, but have results all over the place. They have respectable losses against Virginia and UCLA, but an odd home loss against Florida Atlantic in overtime. They are coming off a 75-70 loss at Illinois to start Big Ten play. Their best win is a home win over Providence, but they didn’t play a particularly difficult non-conference slate. That makes them very tough to judge.
What makes them a concern is a very athletic backcourt consisting of Jae’Sean Tate and JaQuan Lyle. Tate, a 6’4” wing from nearby Pickerington, leads them at 13.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He can get to the basket quite well. It is his preferred method of scoring since he is 54.2% from the field, but a paltry 14.3% from three. Lyle averages 11.9 points and 5.7 assists at the point, but he is only 28.9% from three. Both guys are extremely athletic, which tends to cause us problems.
Marc Loving gives them an experienced long-range shooter. The 6’8” senior averages 11.6 points per game and he is probably their best long-range threat. He also gets close to five rebounds per game. Kam Williams (10.8 ppg) is yet another athletic guard to contend with, and he is over 40% from three.
In the middle is Trevor Thompson. The transfer from Virginia Tech is having a great year at 10.8 points and 8.8 rebounds. The 7-footer is also one of the Big ten’s best shot blockers at almost two per game. He gives the Buckeyes five players averaging in double figures.
Keita Bates-Diop joins Lyle and Thompson as players Purdue heavily recruited that are now in Columbus. Bates-diop is close to double figures at 9.7 points per game, but after him the rotation drops of significantly. That is often a trait of Matta teams. He normally has a 6-7 man rotation, rarely going even as deep as eight. Micah Potter and C.J. Jackson should play some, but for the most part this is a six-man team.
Thompson is probably the key here. Minnesota had multiple bigs that caused problems for Isaac Haas. Thompson is really their only big man. If Purdue gets him in foul trouble there is no reason that has and Caleb Swanigan can’t feast in the paint.
What concerns me is the athleticism of Ohio State. Purdue struggles with teams that are athletic and disruptive. Thompson can block shots and both Williams and Lyle can get into passing lanes and rack up steals. They do have turnover issues, however. Both teams average 14 turnovers per game, but for Purdue it has been the opportunistic turnovers that have hurt it. In every loss Purdue has had turnovers at critical times that led to points. The Boilers can’t afford those types of mistakes tonight.
This is definitely a concerning game. The Buckeyes are more than good enough to win, especially if Purdue isn’t shooting well out of the gate. Haas needs to have a bounceback game and we likely need to improve our three points hooting by at least 5% from the Minnesota game. We know Swanigan will play like a man possessed, but will everyone else? Does the addition of Spike Albrecht in the lineup disrupt Purdue’s minutes? There are a lot of questions after Sunday, and Purdue must find answers tonight.