Buckeyes Win Again With Strong Outing vs. Purdue
By Rob Ogden
What a difference 10 days can make.
A little more than a week after hitting rock bottom with a home loss to Penn State, Ohio State put together perhaps one of its most complete performances of the season, and defeated Purdue 67-49 for its third-consecutive win.
Senior Lenzelle Smith Jr., who was emotional following the loss to the Nittany Lions – the first of Thad Matta's tenure at Ohio State – scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
Smith called out his teammates following that loss. He said the team lacked "toughness, character, camaraderie and leadership."
But that seems so far away now. Saturday, Smith sat in front of the microphone at chuckled over his emotion-laced rant that had taken place just a few days prior.
"I think our maturity as a team has picked up a little bit," Smith said. "I think we've found a lot of that stuff that we were missing."
One thing Smith has definitely found is his scoring touch. It had been absent for weeks.
His shooting performance Saturday was his best since Dec. 27 against Louisiana-Monroe.
Smith heated up in the second half, when he connected on four consecutive attempts from 3-point range. In an 18-point win, the shots were meaningful for a team that has struggled putting opponents away.
"It feels great because if I can show that I can hit one or two 3's, I know they're gonna look for me," Smith said. "It's a great feeling knowing the ball is coming your way."
Smith has historically been a streaking shooter - on one night, off the next - but with Michigan upcoming on the schedule, he said he thinks he'll be able to keep his scoring touch going.
Purdue cut Ohio State's lead to 48-45 with 9:22 to play, but the Buckeyes capitalized on unforced errors, and outscored the Boilermakers 19-4 over the closing minutes.
At one point, Purdue committed five turnovers in seven possessions.
The Boilermakers finished with 15 total turnovers and the Buckeyes turned them into 18 points. That was the difference, Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
"In the second half I thought it was our turnovers and inability to score in transition," he said. "We just imploded. We had one call go against us and we self-destructed."
LaQuinton Ross led all scorers with 17 points and Amir Williams and Shannon Scott each added 9.
The Buckeyes shot 46.3 percent from the floor as a team.
"We're a way different team when everybody is making shots," Ross said. "We're almost unstoppable on offense."
After struggling through January, the team is playing with confidence again, Ross said, and it showed.
"We're playing for one another, we're lifting each other up," Smith said. "We can read each other, and when we're playing like that, it's an unstoppable feeling.
"We're gonna be a tough team to beat come March."
Scott took a hard fall under Ohio State's basket with 4:35 to play, and laid motionless for a few moments before being helped off the floor. He returned to the game with just more than a minute to play. Matta said post-game x-rays to Scott's left wrist were negative.
It wasn't a perfect game, but it was one of the more complete game the Buckeyes have played during the past few weeks.
"I like the way that we're playing right now," Matta said. "We didn't play perfect, but we made some plays when we needed to make them."
Painter was complimentary of the Buckeyes following the game.
When the Buckeyes can put the ball in the basket as efficiently as they did Saturday night, he said, they're a good team.
"You're gonna go through some tough times in this league. They'll be there in the end," Painter said. "They'll be good in the NCAA Tournament."
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