First Thoughts From an 88-72 Win Over Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament
By Tony Gerdeman
Ohio State was in control of this game from the outset, never trailing once and only being tied twice, with one of those ties being at 0-0.
That doesn't mean this was an easy win for the Buckeyes. Part of the trouble with controlling games against good teams is that there's only so much control you can gather, and even less that you can maintain.
When an opponent shoots 12-26 (46.2%) from three-point range, it's not going to be easy to run away from them, even if you are shooting 37-61 (60.7%) from the field yourself.
But the Buckeyes kept attacking and kept defending, and eventually they closed the Boilermakers out. The starters played a ton of minutes and they're going to have to do it again tomorrow afternoon against Michigan.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Buckeyes, but given the fact that they looked incredibly fresh, and Michigan is also playing on a short turnaround, endurance shouldn't yet be a factor.
Though, if their shooting is spotty, then you can bet that is where most of the blame will lie from fans.
Right away in this game we got a sense that this was going to be an Ohio State offense that was tuned precisely.
William Buford drove the ball early, Lenzelle Smith looked for his shot, Jared Sullinger was running the court, and Deshaun Thomas hit his first three-point attempt. If that's not foreshadowing, then there is no such thing.
Purdue decided to single Sullinger early, and it was a mistake. He dominated, and it led to him staying active and running the floor. He was even cutting to the basket. Purdue had no answer for him.
Sullinger had eight of his thirty points in the first five minutes of the game. For him, it was probably a lot like his AAU days. He had freedom to do what he wanted, and the Buckeyes were better off for it.
The Buckeyes led it 65-61 with just over six minutes to play. Ohio State was moving the ball around, and the ball found itself in Sam Thompson's wide open hands behind the three-point line. He really had no choice but to shoot it, which he did.
He missed the shot, and it could have led to a Purdue runout that saw Ohio State's slim lead cut in half to just two points.
Instead, the Buckeyes fought for the offensive rebound, and Deshaun Thomas eventually came down with it and laid it back up and in.
It was the play of the game for Ohio State and started the Buckeyes on the 23-10 run that finished off the Boilermakers.
Thomas' ability to pull down offensive rebounds is just an amazing thing to watch. There are no rights of first refusal, and he never takes no for an answer.
He only finished with three offensive rebounds, but if there is such a thing as a "clutch rebounder", Thomas certainly fits that bill.
His 22 points and seven rebounds are indicative of his rebounding prowess, but it's also indicative of his incredible feel for where he is in relation to the basket. He has basket GPS in his head, and it never has to reroute because of traffic.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Buckeyes tonight, led by Sullinger's 30 points and Thomas 22 points.
William Buford was deadly late after being completely silent early. He scored nine points in the final seven minutes. The Buckeyes' lead went from two points to fourteen in the span of just over two minutes.
Lenzelle Smith and Aaron Craft scored eleven and ten points, respectively, and Craft added six rebounds, seven assists, two blocks, a steal and just one turnover.
I've talked about in the past that the Buckeyes need three players to play well in order to win tough games. Tonight was a matter of having two dominating performances combined with three solid ones, and all coming from a starting five that is communicating very well right now.
I guess if the Buckeyes only have two stellar offensive performances, then it's okay as long as they get two or three solid outings from everybody else.
The Buckeyes like to push the ball when they can, but tonight they pushed it at will in their halfcourt offense. They stayed in constant motion, and much of that motion was aimed at attacking the basket without the ball.
It certainly looked like the Buckeyes were attacking Purdue's lack of a defensive presence in the paint, because they simply kept cutting and slashing, generally with positive results.
The Buckeyes scored 48 points in the paint, and while half of those were Sullinger's, the rest of the team made their mark by moving without the ball and letting the offense flow toward the basket.
While Deshaun Thomas was busy lighting Purdue up for 22 points on 9-13 shooting, he was also busy staying in Robbie Hummel's face and forcing bad shots.
Hummel finished with just six points on 2-8 shooting from the field. He scored all of his points by hitting two of his five three-point attempts.
Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson has some of the most explosive quicks in college basketball. He even put Aaron Craft on his butt late in the first half, though Jackson and the Boilermakers were unable to capitalize.
However, Craft got the last laugh because Jackson finished 4-13 shooting. Despite dishing ten assists, Jackson's inability to shoot the perimeter shot certainly came into play in this game.
Let's stop and talk a bit about Matt Painter's ridiculous tirade following his technical foul, which came about when he was upset about one of his players once again getting cleanly stripped by Aaron Craft.
"They can't hug us!" was his first yell, referring to Craft's defense. Then he followed that with "You can't protect him every game! Just like at Ohio State! He's just holding us!'
Let me just start by saying that I don't really care about coaches complaining about random things. However, when a coach is complaining about rough defense from a guard, that coach better not be the same guy that once had Chris Kramer on his team.
The irony of Painter's shouts and pleas is even more deafening than his foolish ranting.
For those of you in the "Play LaQuinton Ross" camp, I just thought it would be good to mention that the Buckeyes are now 8-0 in the games that he has played this season, but just 7-5 in conference play when he hasn't.
That's certainly something to think about...provided you're not a deep thinker.
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