WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It was at shootaround hours before No. 14 Ohio State was set to play No. 3 Purdue on Wednesday when coach Chris Holtmann saw something he didn’t like in one of his players. So while being wary of talking with a player in a shooting slump, he addressed the situation with freshman guard Musa Jallow.
“I said, ‘Hey, listen. I’m watching you right now and you’re not shooting the ball with confidence. You go in tonight, shoot the ball. Let it fly. You have an open shot, let it fly. I want you to do that,’ knowing he may get one or two open looks,” Holtmann said.
Freshman Musa Jallow
Sophomore Andre Wesson
Coach Chris Holtmann
That, coupled with a lot of extra work behind the scenes, helped key the 64-63 upset win against the Boilermakers. After entering the game with five points in Big Ten games this season and none since the Iowa game on Jan. 4, Jallow made two first-half three-pointers and finished with 10 points in 13 minutes.
He made 3 of 4 three-point attempts after entering the game 8 of 35 for the season and empty on six attempts in Big Ten games. One thought crossed his mind when the first one found only net.
“About dang time,” he said with a smile outside the Ohio State locker room at Mackey Arena. “It felt good. I was working on it a lot the past couple weeks.”
He wasn’t the only unexpected spark for the Buckeyes. In his second consecutive start in place of the suspended Kam Williams, sophomore forward Andre Wesson scored a career-high 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting while playing a career-high 36 minutes, many of them while guarding 7-2 Purdue center Isaac Haas.
Wesson’s final basket was a three-pointer with 1:14 to play from the left wing that banked off the glass to pull the Buckeyes within two at 62-60. He didn’t call it.
“I tried to,” he said. “When it left my hand, at the last second I called it.”
Just as important were the minutes he gave the Buckeyes in the lane, working to deny the ball to a player listed eight inches taller than him.
“We have faith in all those guys,” junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said. “We’ve seen them put the work in every single day. We knew Musa was eventually going to start hitting shots and the same thing with Dre. Their offense was good but their defense was even better. That was big for us.”
Haas conceded that Ohio State’s smaller lineup, keyed by Wesson, caused Purdue problems.
“Well, I think that won the game so it speaks for itself,” he said. “They hit some threes from people who haven’t hit any threes before. Jallow, he was 0 for 6 coming into this game and he hit three threes tonight. It just didn’t fall your way. Andre Wesson’s not really known as a three-point shooter and he hit three tonight. It kind of sucks but you just move on from it.”
Holtmann said the key was that both players played loose and confident on such a national stage. Jallow said it was a case of seeing practice work pay off. During Ohio State’s just-concluded four-game homestand, he has been seen putting in extra pre-game work with assistant coach Mike Schrage.
That confidence came from “every day in the gym,” he said. “If you’re going to shoot it, you might as well shoot it with confidence. I knew I put the reps in and enough work to make them.”