Always emotional, Duane Washington stars, enjoys thrilling overtime win against Purdue

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Mar 12, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) dunks the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers in the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – Pure emotion and Duane Washington Jr. are inseparable.

Six days ago, the Ohio State junior was inconsolable after the Buckeyes took an ugly loss on senior day. The particulars have been well-discussed in the interim, but Washington’s culpability – five of the final 10 missed shots as Illinois closed on a 9-0 run – left him red-eyed and gutted about not sending CJ Walker and Kyle Young out with a win.

Friday, it all came full circle inside the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium. Moments earlier, Washington scored five of his team-high 20 points in overtime as the fifth-seeded Buckeyes pulled away for an 87-78 win against fourth-seeded Purdue in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament. Speaking into a microphone for a virtual press conference with the Big Ten Network, Washington faced the Ohio State cheering section that took up as much space permitted spread across sections 124 and 125.

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Interview over, headphones off, Washington headed toward the tunnel to the team’s locker room. Behind him, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann pumped his fist, thanking the fans for coming and watching his star player depart the national stage for the sanctity of the locker room.

Before he got there, though, Washington pointed to the fans, yelled out “O-H!” and made the ‘O’ with his arms and soaked in the moment.

“Big Ten basketball, man,” Washington said after the win. “It’s a hard season. Long season. It’s my third go-around. I’ve been through it where you go through a stretch of losing games. I went through being No. 2 in the country. Seeing both sides, you’re gonna get challenges. You’re gonna have some tough moments through the year.”

Sometimes, like today, they lead to unrestrained joy for the player who is the emotional – and often scoring – leader of an Ohio State team that has reached the Big Ten semifinals for the first time in seven years.

“Duane really felt the senior day loss because I think he felt like, and he’s one of our best players, he felt responsible,” Holtmann said. “I’m a proud parent. I get angry when people are overly critical of our players and I think for Duane, he’s handled that really well because there is an admission we all have to do things better, coaches and players.

“To see him respond and enjoy (this): his decision-making, which was really the difference in overtime, versus what happened a couple games ago was a credit to him.”

Washington was instrumental as the Buckeyes pulled away during overtime. With the Ohio State lead at 75-74, he found Seth Towns for a three-pointer that pushed it to a two-possession game. After Trevion Williams fouled E.J. Liddell out at the other end and hit two free-throws with 2:25 to play to pull the Boilermakers within 78-76, Washington assisted on a banked-in jumper from the left wing that again came from Towns.

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One possession later, with the lead up to 80-76, he buried a three-pointer to give the Buckeyes an 83-76 lead. It was the back-breaker, and it came from a player who’s never shied away from taking the big shot even if the last one didn’t go in.

Prior to that dagger, Washington had missed his last seven shots. It had been since his jumper with 17:26 left in the game that Washington had scored.

“As we always say, players win games and our players won this game,” Holtmann said.

Chief among them was Washington, whose postgame cheer was replicated in an online video by a pair of young fans.

Chris Holtmann wins 200th game

When he got to the locker room, the Ohio State coach said he had no idea what his players were yelling at him.

“They doused me with water in the locker room,” Holtmann said. “Kept saying, ‘200.’ I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought I owed somebody $200.”

The players were celebrating being a part of Holtmann’s 200th career win as a coach. Now in his 10th year as a head coach, Holtmann won 44 games during three years at Gardner-Webb, 70 in three years at Butler and brought a record of 85-42 into Friday’s game against Purdue.

He’s now won at least 20 games in seven straight seasons, one of three active coaches enjoying such a streak. For his career, Holtmann is 200-127 (.612).

“It’s a memorable one for sure,” Holtmann said of the win. “That’s humbling that those guys would do that and think enough to do that. But I’ve lost a lot of games, too. Players win games and coaches lose games and we live with those losses. Hopefully we’ll enjoy this one.”

How we got to overtime

The Buckeyes led by 18 at the half and were still ahead by double digits at nearly the midpoint of the game before Purdue closed with a flourish, outscoring Ohio State 13-4 in the final six minutes to force overtime.

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It would take a few key plays in the final seconds to get to the extra stanza despite Ohio State missing its final eight shots from the floor. After Williams tied the game at 70, pulling Purdue even for the first time since it led 8-7 in the first five minutes, the Buckeyes went to Justice Sueing. He drew a foul with 23.7 seconds left and hit both free throws to put Ohio State ahead 72-70.

After Williams scored – again – to tie things one more time, the Buckeyes called timeout with 9.4 seconds left and a chance for the game-winner. Holtmann drew up a full-court play, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t get a shot off as CJ Walker was stripped with about three seconds left and neither team could corral the loose ball.

“(It was) just a step-up action we ran,” Holtmann said. “He just fumbled the ball. We’ve run it a number of times and scored. He just mishandled the ball.”

Ohio State did not make a field goal for the rest of regulation once Liddell scored with 5:23 to play to make it a 70-61 lead. Washington and Liddell each missed three shots and had one shot blocked while Sueing and Towns each had a miss at the rim.

It compared to a run of 8:20 during which Ohio State got six points on free throws and nothing else from 15:20-7:00 during the second half.

“It’s frustrating, man,” Washington said of the scoring lulls. “It’s hard. It’s very emotional. You’ve got to be very tough on the court, tough mentally. That’s not our first time going through this. People are counting how many times people are coming back against us. Going against these situations, you can’t simulate it.”

“I wouldn’t say we get complacent,” Liddell said. “We’ve got to know situations, time and score. We had a great first half and CJ and me kept emphasizing that we had 20 minutes and we had to finish it out. They made their run. Purdue’s a good team.”

Today, though, it didn’t sink them, just like it didn’t in Thursday’s harrowing, 79-75 win against No. 13 seed Minnesota.

“Our guys executed so well,” Holtmann said. “Justice getting to the free-throw line I thought was critical, and in overtime offensively guys made plays and Duane made some phenomenal reads. We really ran a similar action most of overtime and Duane made some phenomenal reads.”