Five Things We Learned in an Ugly Win over Purdue
By John Porentas
1) It's March, and things are going to be crazy. Illinois upsets Indiana, Minnesota upsets Iowa, and the Buckeyes struggle against Purdue. We shouldn't be surprised, because it's March, and that's what always happens. If you want to be depressed about an ugly win, you're entitled, but put yourself in the shoes of a Hoosier fan or Hawkeye fan. Would you trade places? It's all about advance and live to fight another day, and for whatever the Buckeyes didn't do against Purdue (like make shots) the one thing they did do was advance and live to fight another day. It's all that matters.
2) Unless you are in the team huddle we don't always see the entire picture. There has been what we have felt has been justified criticism of Amir Williams in this space of late. Against Purdue he did not score particularly well with six points, but did finally wake up a little as a rebounder with nine boards. His biggest play, however, won't show up in the box score. When Purdue inbounded the ball with 2.8 seconds remaining Thad Matta and his staff were concerned about two plays: the alley oop to A. J. Hammons and the three point shot. Matta said after the game that when Williams guards the inbounder the alley oop is nearly impossible, and that took away option one for the Boilermakers. It's an impact Williams had on a crucial play that most of us would not have noticed. Matta did.
3) LaQuinton Ross is a March Warrior. Ross heated up last March. Against Purdue it looked like he is ready to pick up right where he left off last season. His 19 points and 15 rebounds were enormous. Without a doubt, without his effort the Buckeyes lose this game. His game has evolved from a perimeter oriented three-point shooting game to a get in the paint and score down low game, and he is a better player for is. If Ross can continue that level of play the Buckeyes can ride him far into March and maybe even April.
4) The Buckeyes may be rediscovering something they had last season but lacked this season. Last year's team didn't dominate too many games, but they were around playing when the season was over for almost all the rest of the teams in the nation. They did it by being tough late in games and refusing to lose. That has been missing from this club for stretches of this season, but last Sunday against Michigan State they showed that quality and did it again against Purdue. If they can rediscover that trait this could still be a fun post-season.
5) It's really good to have a couple of seniors around at tournament time. When the chips were down at game winning time it was OSU's senior class that came up big. Aaron Craft's steal with 59 seconds remaining and the Buckeyes clinging to a one-point lead was immense. Lenzelle Smith came up just as large. He hit three of four free throws in the last 28 seconds of the game to help ice the win. His biggest play may have been on Purdue's last possession when he fought through a very good screen by A. J. Hammons to challenge the desperation three pointer put up Terone Johnson as time expired. He challenged the shot without fouling and the Buckeyes won the game. It was a big time play by a senor when the Buckeyes needed a play.
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