Buckeyes Return to Form in Rout of Purdue
By Brandon Castel
INDIANAPOLIS — This was supposed to be an Ohio State team in turmoil.
It was supposed to be a team with more questions than answers, a team ripe for the plucking as the rest of the Big Ten circled like vultures in the sky above.
The Buckeyes were supposed to be anything but what they were Friday in their opening game of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament.
Photo by Jim Davidson
With Jared Sullinger in attack mode right from the start, and Deshaun Thomas back in his old stomping grounds where he won two Indiana state championships, Ohio State ran over Purdue Friday night in an 88-71 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“I thought we started the game, that was the biggest thing for me, is seeing how these guys started the game in a tournament format,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said.
“You've got really three guys on this team that have been significant players in this situation, and I thought our preparation coming in was good. I thought our minds were good.”
That includes Sullinger, who scored a season-high 30 points to go with 12 rebounds and a season-high three blocks. It also includes Thomas, a native of Fort Wayne, and the No. 3 all-time scorer in Indiana history, who tallied 22 points and seven rebounds in the win.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The No. 3-seed Buckeyes (26-6) outscored No. 6-seed Purdue (21-12) by a margin of 48-18 in the paint and 13-5 on second-chance points. They also outrebounded the Boilermakers 39-28 while shooting nearly 61 percent from the floor.
“Not trying to toot my own horn, but we played through me,” Sullinger said.
“Obviously, when we see the double, our guards understand that if they get into the open spot, they're going to have a knockdown jump shot, or if they don't double, they're going to let me go work. So I thought that was the biggest key to this game.”
Ohio State opened the game by scoring the first nine points before Robbie Hummel finally got Purdue on the scoreboard with the three. They led 13-3 and 19-11 before the Boilermakers made a run to cut OSU’s lead to one on a three by Ryne Smith.
The Buckeyes would push the lead back to seven on a three-point play by Lenzelle Smith, Jr., but Purdue closed the gap to just one late in the half. That is when Sullinger freed himself up for a three on the wing to give Ohio State a 40-36 lead at the half.
Sullinger had 15 points and Thomas had 14 at the break, but it was senior William Buford who gave the Buckeyes the spark they needed in the second half.
Ohio State opened the half on a 12-5 run, but Purdue cut the lead back to one on a back-to-back layups from Terone Johnson. The game was back-and-forth until the 7-minute mark when Buford was fouled while making a jump shot. He hit the free throw to give OSU a six-point lead, just like the Michigan State game, Buford was off and running.
“I guess I play better when I get angry,” Buford acknowledged with a smile.
“Maybe I need to have Aaron (Craft) or somebody make me mad before the game, he’s good at that.”
Buford pushed the lead to 11 on another three-point opportunity just minutes later and knocked down a big three from the right wing to put Ohio State in front 75-61 with 4:54 to play.
Ohio State’s 17-2 run gave them an 18-point lead with under four minutes to play and the Buckeyes never looked back. Matta emptied his bench in the final two minutes and Ohio State coasted to an 88-71 victory that will set them up for a rematch with No. 2-seed, and co-champion, Michigan on Saturday.
“It’s exciting any time we get to play ‘that team up north,’” said Sullinger, a Columbus native.
“They like to call us ‘Ohio,’ so that's what we're going to call them from now on.”
That includes Sullinger’s former high school teammate Trey Burke, who also scored 30 points in the Wolverines’ 73-69 win over Minnesota.
“Not bad for Columbus, Ohio, huh,” Sullinger said.
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