It is not going to get any easier.
Purdue is probably playing its best basketball of the season right now. We have won 6 of 7 since losing to Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic and solidified our postseason place for now. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, however. We currently sit at 5-2 and in 4th place in a rough and tumble Big Ten, but this week pretty much decides if we will have any further chance at a league title. We have an always difficult trip to Ohio State. Even though the Buckeyes have lost four straight they were the only team to beat us at home last season (costing us the title in the process). We’ve also only won twice historically at Discount Crappy Furniture Arena. In both of those seasons, however, we won the Big Ten regular season title.
Then on Sunday league leading Michigan State comes to town. The Spartans are rolling right now and already dispatched us quite handily in East Lansing. Having them at home in the biggest home game of the year is nice, but they are playing incredibly good basketball right now.
While not absolutely critical, a split this week would be very nice. It would keep us pretty solid in our current NCAA seeding and might even get us back into the top 25. A pair of losses would not be crippling, but it would make the rest of the season would be a bit more precarious. A sweep would put Purdue right back into the title conversation being a game out in the loss column.
It starts tomorrow night in Columbus.
From: Columbus, OH
Date: Wednesday, January 22, 2019
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: No Line Yet
2017-18 Record: 25-9, 15-3 Big Ten (lost to Gonzaga 90-84 in NCAA Second Round
2018-19 Record: 12-5, 2-4 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Land-Grant Holyland
Series with Purdue: Ohio State leads 90-86
Last Ohio State Win: 64-63 at Purdue on 2/7/2018
Last Purdue Win: 76-75 at Ohio State on 1/5/2017
NCAA Tournament History: 32 Appearances, last in 2018. 1960 National Champions
Thanks to Thad Matta Ohio State’s program is the only one in the Big Ten with a winning record of Purdue. Purdue is only 8-26 against Ohio State over the past two decades, allowing the Buckeyes to move ahead of us in the all-time series. Purdue had won 3 of 4 before last season, but the 64-63 Buckeye win in Mackey Arena cost us a share of the Big Ten title. Ohio State is also the only one of five visiting teams to walk out of Mackey with a win since 2015.
This is not at Mackey though. This is Value City Arena, where Purdue is only 2-13 all-time. After a strong start to the year where they got into the top 15 Ohio State has lost four straight since the restart of Big Ten play. They started the year with a really nice win at Cincinnati and got decent non-conference wins at Creighton and UCLA. They have since lost at home to Michigan State and Maryland and on the road at Rutgers and Iowa.
After Rutgers stunned Nebraska last night that loss doesn’t quite look so bad, but it is still Rutgers. The other three are to ranked teams. That makes this a critical game for them. Their next two games are at Nebraska and Michigan, so a home loss to Purdue could portend a seven-game losing streak.
Their scoring has not been great in the last three games and Purdue’s defense has come on as well. They scored 61, 62, and 61 in the last three games while giving up 64, 72, and 75. Despite that, they are averaging 75 points per game (6th in the conference). Defensively they are 5th in the league at 64.3 points per game while Purdue is 3rd in the conference offensively at 78.2 ppg.
The Buckeyes only have a pair of players averaging in double figures. Kaleb Wesson leads them at 15.9 points per game and C.J. Jackson is second at 13.1 ppg. Wesson was held scoreless last season against us as he was limited to just 12 minutes due to foul trouble. Jackson also contributes 3.8 assists per game. They form a nice inside-out duo. Jackson leads them in three-point shooting, but Wesson can also step out and shoot.
Luther Muhammad is third in scoring at 9.1 ppg. The rest of the offense is very balanced as Duane Washington Jr., Andre Wesson, Keyshawn Woods, and Kyle Young all average between 7.3 and 7.9 points per game. (Ed. Note: Young is now out for the game). It does make for a shorter bench with a 7-man rotation, however. Jaedon LeDee and Musa Jallow provide some backup minutes, but do not score much. It was Andre Wesson’s 13 points (and banked-in three-pointer with 1:16 left) that was huge in last season’s game.
This game really comes down to how well each team is playing right now. Purdue is trending up and honestly didn’t play that well offensively against Indiana on Saturday. We won by 15 and probably could have pushed that to 25 if we had hit our season averages. The Buckeyes are struggling, but are still a sound defensive team and are playing at home.
Getting another good road win would be huge for us. It does feel like this is critical for both teams though. The winner gets a leg up in the conference standings plus the tiebreaker since it is the only regular season meeting. I am approaching it cautiously optimistic. It really seems as if we are coming together right now while the Buckeyes are struggling. Because of that, we need to take advantage.