First Thoughts From the Buckeyes' 74-64 Win at Purdue
By Tony Gerdeman
A Big Ten road win this season cannot be taken lightly, even against a team that isn't very good. Purdue falls to 7-8 on the season, but a loss in this game for the Buckeyes (11-3) would have been devastating, especially considering it came on the heels of the Illinois debacle.
Instead, the Buckeyes bounced back, took care of the Boilermakers, and allowed themselves to move past the Illini and prepare for Sunday's huge matchup against Michigan.
Ohio State controlled most of this game, keeping the Purdue fans relatively quiet, and any time they started to get feisty, the Buckeyes answered in a manner to sufficiently shut them up.
It was a good win because it could have very easily been a bad loss had a few more shots fallen. Fortunately for Ohio State, Purdue cannot shoot the ball even a little bit. They knew it and the Buckeyes knew it. They had plenty of open looks, but couldn't get anything to drop.
Purdue's offense looked incredibly frustrated on the night, and the Buckeyes were only part of the reason why. It's hard to get a win when you're battling yourself as hard as you're battling the opponent. Just ask Ohio State last Saturday.
Suspicions Confirmed. There is this growing belief among Buckeye fans that maybe Aaron Craft should sit a bit more than he has been. Well, they got their wish in the first half when he picked up his second foul just over four minutes into the first half and went to the bench.
When he left the game the Buckeyes led Purdue 7-6. With Shannon Scott at the helm, Ohio State went on a 24-11 run and essentially built a lead that the Boilermakers couldn't overcome. The Buckeyes led 39-29 at the half, and Craft had only played the first 4:19.
Ohio State was playing so well at one point with Scott, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson, Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel that I asked on Twitter if this was their best lineup. After all, Thompson seems to play much better when Scott is the point guard, as opposed to when Craft is at the point.
Not to mention that Scott also plays better when he's the point guard. He had five rebounds and five assists in the first half. He makes good things happen. Simply, the Buckeyes were better off having Scott on the court in the first half than Craft.
Then a Funny Thing Happened. While everybody spent much of the first half and halftime writing off Craft, he obviously did no such thing of his own. He scored 13 points in the second half, hitting all five of his shots, and sealed the game for the Buckeyes, providing answer after answer like he was being given a flash card quiz.
The second half showed us the Aaron Craft that Buckeye Nation knows and loves, and the rest of the nation loathes. Hopefully for this team, Craft can take the confidence that he was obviously showing in this game and carry it with him for a while.
Though don't think it is a coincidence that Craft's offense reappeared on the same night that he attacked the hole and also found a couple of pull-up jumpers.
He put this team on his back late and carried them to a road victory in the Big Ten. There's no room for a guy like that on the bench.
Instant Offense. I loved Deshaun Thomas' offensive game tonight. He used his dribble in the first half to give himself some room and was able to get shots off without a hand in his face for most of the first half.
It also doesn't hurt that even with a hand in his face the shots were still going in. It was good to see him hitting the three. I wouldn't say that all of his shots were advised, but I can absolutely say that he can hit any single shot that he takes.
Thomas wasn't alone off the dribble, however, because LaQuinton Ross had a few minutes in the first half where he was playing the Boilermaker defense like a yo-yo. His shot has been struggling for a while now, so to see him attack the paint and get some easier shots was encouraging.
What wasn't encouraging, however, was the fact that he didn't play in the second half because Thad Matta can't risk the defensive liability. And this is against a team that had very little offensive ability.
It doesn't bode well for his playing time against teams like Michigan and Indiana, who can get offense from anybody on their team, as well as their managers and traveling secretaries.
Center Rotation. While it can absolutely be frustrating to watch Amir Williams at times, I'm buying into him in the starting lineup because that gives the Buckeyes more punch off the bench with Evan Ravenel.
Ravenel made some plays in this game that Williams can't, and may never be able to make. He finished strong several times, and also showed his extended range. Ohio State scored 21 bench points, and Ravenel was responsible for 11 of them. That's a quality game plan by Matta.
For as much as Williams struggled in the first half, and he did struggle, he had some nice moments in the second half. However, too often his "nice moments" are merely instances when he caught a pass and actually finished, which he should do 90% of the time, but has only managed to do maybe 15% of the time.
Quick Thoughts. When Lenzelle Smith's floater isn't falling, he's 75% of the player he can be. When his three-pointer isn't falling in addition to that, he's half the player he could be. However, despite that, he's still the type of player who will pull down 10 rebounds when nothing else is going right for him... I cannot emphasize enough how terrible Purdue's shooting is. They only turned the ball over six times, but that's because they can't technically count jumpers as turnovers... I'm a fan of Dan Dakich, but his love for the state of Indiana and the teams in said state was a little much to handle. At one point I expected him to storm the court in an attempt to confront Aaron Craft. Or at least yell at the refs to call something. It's also uncomfortable listening to a color commentator get depressed during a game, which he seemed to do a time or two during Purdue's struggles... It is impossible for me to see Sam Thompson hit a jumpshot and not visualize his entire game fully realized. It's a scary and beautiful thing. I hope one day it is reality.
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