This is the big one. Last season Purdue’s road to a 23rd Big Ten Championship got going with a one-point win in Columbus. Purdue won on a late Caleb Swanigan free throw 76-75 for an important road victory. This came after Minnesota had walked into Mackey arena and kind of kicked our ass. It restored confidence for a team that needed it and gave Purdue just its second win ever at the Discount Crappy Furniture Arena.
A year later Purdue is battling for another Big Ten title. This time the Buckeyes are our closest competition. Purdue holds just a one game lead on them with six to play. An Ohio State win would continue a very surprising season, as they were not supposed to be this good this fast under Chris Holtmann. A Purdue win gives the Boilers a two-game cushion with five to play. That means three wins in the last five would guarantee us at least a share of a second consecutive title.
It is the biggest game of the year so far in the Big Ten.
From: Columbus, OH
Date: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Tip Time: 8:30 PM ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2016-17 Record: 17-15, 7-11 Big Ten
2016-17 Record: 20-5, 11-1 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 89-86
Last Ohio State Win: 65-61 at Ohio State on 3/1/2015
Last Purdue Win: 76-75 at Ohio state on 1/5/2017
NCAA Tournament History: 1960 National Champions, 29 appearances, last in 2015
Coach: Chris Holtmann (20-5 in 1st year at Ohio State, 134-90 in 7th season overall)
The unbalanced schedule has not been kind to Purdue’s Big Ten dominance. As you’re aware, Purdue has the most Big Ten championships with 23. We also own an all-time winning record against every conference opponent except… Ohio State. The Buckeyes were able to edge in front 89-86 with a 24-6 run from 1999-2014. Purdue has since won 3 of 4, but this is the third straight year in which we only get one meeting with them. Purdue could have gained its ground back these last few seasons as the Buckeyes have struggled, but the schedule didn’t help.
Those struggles were supposed to continue this year, but the Buckeye shave been on a roll since losing to Clemson 79-65 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That was their third loss in four games and it dropped them to 5-3. Only North Carolina and Penn State have beaten them since. In Big Ten play Ohio State has been dominant. They had a double-digit halftime deficit at home to Michigan, but came back to win 71-62. They are also undefeated in true road games, but have played four straight at home before this one.
A large reason for this is Keita Bates-Diop. The senior forward has been excellent this season, and he could be doing it in a Purdue uniform. Purdue recruited him heavily out of high school, but he chose Ohio State instead. Purdue got Vince Edwards as a result. When you’re basically trading one Big Ten Player of the Year candidate for the other it certainly seems like a wash, but it is still an interesting “what if?”.
Bates-Diop leads the league in scoring at 20.2 points per game. He is also third in rebounding at 8.9 and 6th in blocked shots at 1.7 per game. He is a do everything player worthy of the Player of the Year hype and one capable of going for a 30 and 15 any given night. Bates-Diop and Vince are very similar players in that they can create their own shot, rebounds, shoot from the perimeter, and defend. Watching them go at each other will be fun.
Like Purdue, Ohio State has three other players averaging in double figures. Jae’Sean Tate is an experienced senior guard at 12.8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He had 17 against Purdue last season, but he is not much of a three-point shooter. C.J. Jackson (12.8 ppg, 4.3 apg) gets everything going at the point while shooting 38.8% form three. Kaleb Wesson is their main big and he averages 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He can draw Isaac Haas away from the basket too. He’s not going to light it up from deep, but he can shoot from out there if needed (4 of 12 from 3 on the season).
The biggest disadvantage for Ohio State is the suspension of Kam Williams. The 6’2” senior guard will not make the trip to West Lafayette. He is their best three-point shooter at 46.3% and he averages 8 points per game. He had 10 against us last year.
The Buckeyes are going to do what all recent teams have done to attack our defense. They don’t have the size to defend has alone so they will try to make him a liability on defense with their quickness. Wesson and Micah Potter will draw the defensive assignments on him, but they are both just 6’9”. Andrew Dakich and Musa Jallow, a pair of Indiana products, will provide more depth along with Andre Wesson.
The Buckeyes rank near the middle of the conference in scoring at 77.4 per game to Purdue’s 84.0. They are also sixth in defense at 66.2 points per game given up compared to Purdue’s 64.2. Like Purdue, they are a senior dominated team that plays smart and shares the ball. They do not rely on the three as much as we do, but they won’t beat themselves.
This is a concerning game because they are playing with a lot of confidence right now, while Purdue has been a little shaky of late. Purdue’s defense has been off too, especially in the second half. Ohio State has been a team that has been known to make comebacks, too. Illinois and Penn State all opened up big leads only to blow them. The Illini led 30-15, but did not score in the final 10 minutes of the half as they gave up a 20-0 run.
This is not going to be easy, either. This team is more than good enough to walk into Mackey and win. They have no choice but to go small, too. That can end up being a benefit as they have the ability to make Haas a defensive liability. Purdue has to be disciplined on that end of the floor and watch its assignments. They can put just as many scorers on the floor as us. We have to find a way to slow them or this could be a very long night. If this wasn’t in Mackey I would be even more concerned. Purdue 75, Ohio State 71