Statistically, Purdue brought out the best from Ohio State in the Big Ten.
In a 68-52 home win against the Boilermakers on Feb. 15, the Buckeyes finished with their best defensive efficiency rating of the season against a league opponent and their fifth-best mark of the season.
It’s the kind of statistic that coach Chris Holtmann especially values. It was also the kind of performance the Buckeyes hope will travel with them to Indianapolis, where they will open up Big Ten tournament play Thursday night against No. 10 seed Purdue.
"As we all know, there’s very little separation in this league among most teams, especially when you’re talking about being on a neutral floor," Holtmann said on a teleconference Monday morning. "It’ll be a great challenge for us."
That has been the case for the Buckeyes in the conference tournament for more than half a decade. Ohio State has not won multiple games in the tournament since the 2014 season and has lost six of its past nine games. The Buckeyes are 1-2 under Holtmann, who is 2-8 all-time in conference tournaments, after being bounced by Penn State in 2018 and defeating Indiana but losing to Michigan State in 2019.
Should the Buckeyes win Thursday night, they would face No. 2 seed Michigan State at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
"It’s the postseason," Ohio State junior CJ Walker said. "Everyone is 0-0. It’s kind of like life or death at this point. You’ve got to give everything that you have. You never know what can happen."
Since the only meeting between the teams this season, Ohio State won four of its final five games to earn the No. 7 seed in the tournament and finish at 21-10 overall and 11-9 in the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers have lost three of their past five and, at 16-15 overall, likely need multiple wins in Indianapolis to reach the NCAA Tournament.
A three-point home loss to Rutgers on Saturday in overtime might have been the final straw.
"I think if we would’ve won our last game, we’d have been right there," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "I would say with the amount of losses that we have, we’d have to win four straight to go to the tournament. That has to be our mentality. You can’t get there and win a few and say that’s enough. When you’re on that bubble, you can’t think that way."
Ohio State’s win against Purdue was powered by junior forward Kyle Young, who scored a career-high 16 points. Young has missed the past four games with a right ankle injury, and Holtmann said his status for Thursday is unclear and that if he could have played Sunday at Michigan State, he would have.
Kaleb Wesson honored
Ohio State junior center Kaleb Wesson was named second team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media, the league announced Monday.
Entering the Big Ten tournament, Wesson leads the Buckeyes in scoring (14.0 a game) and rebounding (9.3) and has posted a career-high 11 double-doubles.
Senior walk-on Danny Hummer was named the school’s 2020 Sportsmanship Award honoree.
Iowa’s Luka Garza was named Big Ten player of the year and a first-team all-league selection.
Four players were consensus first-team all-league players, picked by both the coaches and media: Garza, Maryland’s Jalen Smith, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Penn State’s Lamar Stevens. The coaches picked Maryland’s Anthony Cowan Jr. and the media selected Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, who led the Badgers to a share of the conference title, was named coach of the year.