Four years and three days.
One thousand, four hundred, and sixty-four days.
That’s how long it has been since Ohio State went on the road and beat a ranked team.
Seven-consecutive road losses to ranked teams over the previous three seasons. It had become the norm, so forgive me if I had very little expectation for the Buckeyes to pull out a win in West Lafayette against the No. 3 team in the nation.
That’s not taking anything away from what Ohio State had accomplished prior to last night’s win, it was just a feeling of, “Look, you can’t win ’em all in the Big Ten. Nobody does.”
The Buckeyes haven’t won them all, but they’ve come really damn close. A banked 35-footer at the buzzer from Penn State is their only loss in conference play this season, but now is not the time to be dismissing banked threes given what Andre Wesson gave to the Buckeyes last night.
We talked expectations for these final six games on this week’s Accost the Field, and I said it would be possible for the Buckeyes to lose every road game remaining on the schedule. And then they went out and won at the toughest place to play in the B1G this season.
I think part of the reason for my muted expectations is because they don’t need to do anything else this season to try and impress people. For me, it would be unfair to expect anything more than we are seeing, whatever that ends up being. This season is already an incredible success, but that’s nowhere near the team’s mindset right now. They know what they’re doing is special, but they also don’t want to start writing the book when the chapters aren’t even fleshed out yet.
People tell Chris Holtmann all the time about how much fun this team is to watch, and it’s amazing how entertaining smart, high-effort basketball can be to watch. The Buckeyes don’t have the most talented team, and individually they aren’t nearly as impressive as their collective self.
But Holtmann’s ability to get the absolute most out of every single player is exactly what Thad Matta was able to do in his heyday.
He also knows when to push the necessary buttons.
Shooting guard Kam Williams has now missed two games due to suspension, so in his place goes sophomore small forward Andre Wesson.
Although, labels like “shooting guard” and “small forward” don’t really come into play in Holtmann’s language. How do you label Jae’Sean Tate or Keita Bates-Diop?
And if you’ve watched Andre Wesson and Kam Williams this season, they don’t really mirror each other much at all.
For instance, while Wesson was hitting two clutch threes in the second half last night, including the aforementioned glasser to give OSU a 62-60 lead, he was also instrumental in defending 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas. Haas scored 18 points in the first 21-odd minutes of the game last night. With Kaleb Wesson in foul trouble, Holtmann went small and it was Andre Wesson — the replacement for the suspended 6-foot-2 Kam Williams — defending Haas for much of the second half, and holding him scoreless the entire time.
Wesson’s high in a Big Ten game this season was three points prior to last night’s game. He scored 13 against the Boilers, and the Buckeyes needed every last one of those points.
But it wasn’t just Wesson. Before the game, Holtmann pulled freshman Musa Jallow aside and told him to shoot with confidence tonight because that’s one of the things his game has been lacking of late.
Jallow had yet to hit a three-pointer in B1G play prior to last night. Against Purdue, however, he hit 3-of-4 from deep and played with zero doubt. He just turned 18 years old a few days before, but he was catching and shooting like he was channeling his inner Jon Diebler.
Keita Bates-Diop is a great player. Jae’Sean Tate is a great do-it-all complement. Kaleb Wesson is going to be a very good post player for the Buckeyes for the rest of his career.
But every minute of the game last night was about the team. It wasn’t KBD who got the Buckeyes out of a 9-point hole in the first half or a 14-point hole in the second half. Six different Buckeyes scored during OSU’s final 25-10 run.
If this season has been a statement by the Ohio State basketball program, the win over Purdue was the signature.
Just think, on football’s national signing day — a holiday for the sport and for Ohio State — it was the Buckeye basketball team that outshined the football program, even if just for a day.
For a good 12 hours, Ohio State was a basketball school, and it was pretty amazing to watch.