No. 3 Ohio State (20-3, 8-2) goes after its sixth straight win when the Buckeyes host Purdue (15-8, 5-5) at The Schott tonight at 9. Jared Sullinger is fresh off his 24/10 performance at Wisconsin, earning co-B1G POW honors with Nerdwestern’s John Shurna. For Sully, that’s two POW awards so far this season. It’s the only regular season meeting between the schools, which split two games last year, each winning at home. Ohio State is just 76-83 in the all-time series against Purdue (adjusted for vacated, but not forgotten, victories), but 51-28 at home. As a ranked team, the Buckeyes are 22-4 against the Boilers, and Ohio State has claimed 10 of the last 11 meetings in Columbus (unadjusted numbers, just for fun). Hopefully ESPN’s early game won’t go into overtime and cause us to miss the start. Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich have the call.
The Boilermakers look a bit different this year, with the departures of JaJuan Johnson and E’twaun Moore—both to the NBA’s Boston Celtics—and the return of 12th-year senior Robbie Hummel (#4). Hummel is the only Boiler averaging double figures (15.2). He’s the B1G’s sixth leading scorer. It’s easy to forget because of his history of injuries, but Hummel is a very good all-around player. Hummel leads Purdue in rebounding (6.2 RPG), is sixth in the conference in blocks (31), and is second on the team in assists (42). Senior guard Lewis Jackson (#23) scores 9.9 points and is sixth in the conference with 3.9 assists per game. LewJack is the team’s co-leader in steals (29). Senior guard Ryne Smith (#24) hits 41% of his shots outside the arc and chips in 9.3 points per game.
Hummel, Jackson and Smith most likely will be joined in the starting lineup by sophomore forward Travis Carroll (#50) and junior guard Kelsey Barlow (#12), though those spots have been a bit fluid at times. Sophomore guard Terone Johnson (#0) is another option. Barlow scores 8.2 points per game and is a pretty good rebounder. He’s also tied with Jackson for the team’s steals lead. Carroll averages less than 17 minutes per game despite getting 11 starts. This is probably because he doesn’t score much (2.8 PPG) or grab a lot of rebounds for a big guy (3.1 avg.). Johnson scores 7.4 points on average. Junior guard/forward D.J. Byrd (#21) is a three-point specialist off the bench, averaging 41.1% from deep.
Purdue is just 1-3 in its last four games, and 3-3 on the road overall this season. The Boilermakers, coming off a 78-61 loss to in-state rival Indiana on Saturday, were blown out in two of those games and lost by a single bucket at home against TTUN. The main problems for Purdue this season seem to be rebounding and defensive field goal percentage. In other words, they don’t get a lot of second chances on offense, allow second-chance points on defense, and are allowing opponents to shoot an average of 42.5%. The Boilers are fifth in scoring offense, seventh in scoring defense and fifth in average scoring margin (+7). Purdue ranks fifth in the league in steals and fourth in blocked shots per game. The Boilers are only 11th in 3FG defense, but Ohio State isn’t a particularly good three-point shooting team (9th, 32.9%), so that shouldn’t cause them too much difficulty unless Smith, Buford or Thomas get unexpectedly hot from out there.
Ohio State wins if: they continue to play as a team and do the things they’ve been doing well. Team defense has been the main reason for the current five-game winning streak. The Buckeyes have not allowed more than 24 points in the first half of any game since the loss at Illinois. If that trend continues, and if Sully, Thomas and Buford do their usual thing, Ohio State should prevail, possibly in a lopsided fashion. It would help if the Buckeyes take care of the ball, don’t get key players into foul trouble and shoot a decent percentage, but I think they could actually survive at least one of those three things. It will be interesting to see who Thad Matta puts on Robbie Hummel, defensively. With his size and variety of skills, Hummel could provide matchup problems. Smith may be best suited for it, although at 6-4 he’d be giving up four inches. The 6-6 Buford may get the assignment, or Matta may need to use a combined approach.
Purdue wins if: Ohio State comes out complacent, turns the ball over, shoots poorly and/or gets into foul trouble. The Boilermakers have a shot at the road upset if they hit the glass and shoot particularly well outside the arc (and they are third in the B1G, averaging 7.6 triples per game). If someone like Smith or Byrd gets hot, it could be problematic for Ohio State. The Buckeyes can’t count on Purdue to make things easy by giving it away cheaply. Purdue is second in the league to Ohio State in turnover margin (+5.04) and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). Aaron Craft on Lewis Jackson will be a key battle in the game.
Notes: William Buford needs 19 points to catch Jim Jackson for sixth on the all-time OSU scoring list…DeShaun Thomas has scored in double figures 20 times this season, more than any other Buckeye…Aaron Craft is 11 assists shy of 300 for his career…Sullinger averages a double-double at home this season (17.3/10.1).