WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The shock and awe had clearly taken hold inside the visitors’ locker room at Mackey Arena. No. 14 Ohio State had just knocked off No. 3 Purdue on a last-second put-back from Keita Bates-Diop, ending a number of impressive Boilermaker winning streaks and giving the Buckeyes a clear path to a Big Ten title.
Cheering was rampant, as would be expected. Someone loudly sang the theme to “SportsCenter.” Coach Chris Holtmann and a trio of players handled questions with smiles on their faces, thanking banked three-pointers, the basketball gods and a number of key factors for the upset victory.
Freshman Musa Jallow
Sophomore Andre Wesson
Coach Chris Holtmann
Atop any list of reasons why the Buckeyes emerged with such a win, though, was the defensive effort they turned in. Against a Purdue team that hadn’t been held below 70 points in Big Ten play and below 66 for the season, Ohio State held the Boilermakers to 63 points.
“We hang our hat on defense,” Bates-Diop said. “No matter how potent our offense is or how bad it kind of was tonight, we’ll always play defense no matter what and that wins us games.”
There were bad stretches for the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes missed their first seven shots from the floor, but only trailed 5-2 when Jae’Sean Tate scored at the 14:26 mark because Purdue wasn’t getting good looks, either. And after Purdue pushed its lead to 14 points with 10:17 to play, Ohio State forced the Boilermakers to close the game by going 2 for their last 11 from the floor while committing four turnovers.
So even though the offense sputtered at times, it didn’t affect the defense much.
“That’s all we do in practice: We play defense,” freshman guard Musa Jallow said. “That’s what it is: get stops and build up on that and get runs and that’s all it is. They were struggling to move the ball. We got some tips and we were all over them. They were taking tough shots. That was the whole game plan.”
And, for good measure, the Buckeyes held Purdue to two offensive rebounds. The previous season low for the Boilermakers? Five.
There are a few figures that stick out to me when I look back at this game. In no particular order:
*Ohio State won despite a scoreless outing from Kaleb Wesson, who had four fouls and missed four shots in 12 minutes.
*The Buckeyes had just one second-half turnover and forced seven.
*Isaac Haas had two second-half points after putting up 16 before halftime.
*Only four Purdue players scored.
*Andre Wesson played a career-high 36 points, eight more than his previous high. He played the entire second half.
Vincent Edwards finished a three-point play with 51.7 seconds left, giving Purdue a 63-62 lead after an Andre Wesson banked-in three pointer. Ohio State got a missed shot from Tate, but Andrew Dakich came up with the loose ball in the paint and alertly called timeout with 16.2 seconds to play.
With the shot clock off, the Buckeyes drew up a play.
“Get the ball to Keita,” Andre Wesson said. “That’s what the play said.”
The only problem was that they couldn’t.
“They switched the ball screen and it was hard for me to get back open so JT just drove left,” Bates-Diop said.
The left-handed shooter did what he’s done hundreds of times in his career and drove to the left block, but this time he couldn’t finish through significant contact.
“JT took it to the lane to his left,” freshman guard Musa Jallow said. “That’s a great shot for him. He gets about 10 of those a game, and then it fell out but Keita was just right there in the perfect spot. It worked out perfectly.”
Even if that’s not exactly how it was drawn up.
Tate had to come out late in the second half after contact with Haas sent him sprawling to the court and left him holding his left shoulder. He received some attention from the team’s athletic trainer but eventually returned to the game.
“He just went for a rebound and got knocked around,” Holtmann said. “It was a physical game on both ends, as you’d expect. Probably a hard game to officiate, but he just got knocked around and I think he had a stinger so we gave him a little time to sit out. He came back in. I thought his ability to drive it there late and get to his left and force some help allowed Keita to get in there and clean that thing up.”
This was the fourth time this season the Buckeyes have overcome a double-digit deficit to win a Big Ten game and the second time in as many games.
This one was the most dramatic.
*At home against Michigan on Dec. 4, Ohio State trailed by 20 points with 1:31 left in the first half.
*At Madison Square Garden against Minnesota on Jan. 20, Ohio State trailed by 10 points with 11:00 remaining in the first half.
*At home against Illinois on Feb. 4, Ohio State trailed by 15 points with 10:51 to play in the first half.
*At Purdue, Ohio State trailed by 14 points with 10:17 to play.
“I think we’re pretty mature and really experienced, so no matter how much time is left in the game, we feel like we can come back because we’ve been through enough Big Ten games,” Bates-Diop said. “We know a run can happen at any point in the game.”
“It’s a huge win for us. I mean, people were talking there’s a huge (difference) between the top-five (national) teams in the Big Ten and us, and I think we proved that we’re on that level.” – Andre Wesson