Purdue’s Winning Streak Snapped at 19

By KEITH CARRELL
@BoilerColts
ISL Purdue Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It had to happen at some point, it had to happen in conference play, it had to happen at home, it had to happen Wednesday night. 14th ranked Ohio State came from behind to hand Purdue their first loss (64-63) in conference action, their first loss on US soil, their first home loss in over a year, and their first loss in over 75 days. With the Buckeye victory, the two schools are now knotted atop the Big Ten standings, each sitting at 12-1, and no rematch to be had.

“(The loss) hurts, but you just have to learn from it. The things that got us beat in the tournament in the Bahamas are the things that got us beat today: rebounding, turnovers, and defensive possessions.” – Isaac Haas

Coming into the game, the title fight appeared to be between two conference and national player of the year candidates in Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop (who often goes by KBD) and Purdue’s Vincent Edwards; two forwards with a lot of athletic ability that figure to be sought-after commodities by the NBA once the draft rolls around. But, it was the undercards in this fight that stole the show: defense, Carsen Edwards, and the Ohio State bench.

Both squads are near the top of statistical categories related to defense and they did not disappoint. Purdue’s defense forced Ohio State into a shot clock violation on their first possession, followed by a poor, forced air ball from KBD on the following possession. It wasn’t until five and a half minutes had passed that Jae’sean Tate put Ohio State into the scoring column. The problem for Purdue… their offense was negligibly better and had only netted five points in that span. Dakota Mathias was also as active as ever in the first half, effectively swiping at least three balls away to force steals. Although scoring would pick up, both offenses were held below 44% shooting, both 33% from deep, and neither offense was allowed any second chance points; of the 28 combined rebounds in the first half, Ohio State had the one and only offensive board. The defense was so tight in the first half that only three Boilers had scored by halftime: Haas (16), C. Edwards (12), and Mathias (three). Likewise, KBD was only able to rack up eight points on nine field goal attempts and no buckeye was in double figures at the break.

If it weren’t for the final score, this story would have been a giant puff piece praising the stylings of C. Edwards, sophomore phenom, for Purdue. Whenever Purdue found itself struggling, Edwards would flip the switch to aggressive and do whatever was needed to the tune of 28 points (8-13 FG, 4-7 three, 8-9 free throws), but also assisted on three shots, corralled six boards, two steals, and only had one turnover in 36 minutes of action. But, for Edwards, it wasn’t what he did, but rather how he did it… how he always does it. When a shot shouldn’t be able to fall, Edwards finds a way — be it a reverse layup, a three, or a dribble-penetrating pull up. Edwards was special tonight and easily the player of the game for either team, but what was most impressive was his ability to keep the ball alive late. He was only credited with one offensive rebound (that he timed perfectly), but he kept the ball alive on another miss that eventually ended up in Matt Haarms’ hands.

The bench was the difference in this game and one could probably expand that to atypical scoring. For the game, Ohio State’s bench outscored Purdue’s 18 to zilch (that’s a giant, block-O shaped goose egg). Beyond that, though, Purdue only had four players score in the game (V. Edwards got on the board in the second half with eleven points) as P.J. Thompson ended the night missing all five of his attempts. Purdue’s bench wasn’t even looking to score; Haarms, Ryan Cline, Nojel Eastern, and Grady Eifert saw a combined 31 minutes of run and only attempted a single shot (Eastern). By comparison, Haas was the only Purdue starter to play fewer than 33 minutes. It’s difficult to find an accurate +/- metric for college games, but visually it was apparent when Purdue’s starters weren’t on the court against Ohio State, the difference was night and day; each time, it seemed, Ohio State would make a run to close the gap or take a slight lead. The contrast was symbolized quintessentially in the first half when Purdue had built a five-nothing lead; Haas then subbed out for Haarms. Immediately, Ohio State rattled off eight straight points to take the early lead, forcing Haas back into the game.

While Purdue wasn’t able to get assistance from their bench, Ohio State got help from some unlikely sources. Musa Jallow had not made a three pointer in conference play before he sank three against Purdue to lead the Buckeye bench with ten points. Andrew Wesson, who found himself pressed into action against the behemoth that is Haas sank three of his five triples (more on this unlikely hero/villain later) on his way to 13 points. The most alarming statistic, though, might be of points in the paint which Purdue (for a couple of BIG reasons) tends to dominate. In the tilt Wednesday, Ohio State outscored Purdue in the paint 28-18, including 16-to-four in the second half.

Ohio State's C.J. Jackson brings the ball up the court in the second half. Jackson would attempt and miss a three on the possession. -photo by Keith Carrell

Ohio State’s C.J. Jackson brings the ball up the court in the second half. Jackson would attempt and miss a three on the possession. -photo by Keith Carrell

Each time Purdue stretched the lead, Ohio State responded to keep the game within reach. With two minutes remaining in the first half, Purdue extended a nine point lead, but Ohio State scored the half’s final seven points to narrow the Purdue advantage to 31-29 at the break. In the second half, Purdue connected on four straight treys to push a nine point lead six and half minutes in and eventually leaned on C. Edwards’ eleven straight points to extend the lead to 53-39 midway through the closing period; Purdue punched, Ohio State responded. By the six minute mark, the Boiler lead had shrunk back down to four and the seemingly runaway contest was once again a game. With 3:51 to play, KBD found Andrew Dakich open and cutting from the left wing for a wide open layup to close the gap to one. It wasn’t until 74 seconds remained that Ohio State took their first lead of the second half, though, when Wesson banked in a three from the left elbow (if that sounds like it was a poor-looking shot, I’m not beginning to do it enough justice, it was atrocious — but effective). With a two point lead, groans of fans could begin to be heard, but those groans were quickly tempered as V. Edwards drove to the right side for a short jumper and was fouled for a three point opportunity. He sank the freebie and gave the Boilers a one point edge.

Down one with 48 seconds to go, Ohio State had the ball and looked for their opportunity. Tate received the ball on the right elbow and began to dribble into the paint haphazardly, but was able to get a shot off which missed. The ball careened off the rim and through the outstretched hands of at least two Boilers before eventually being snared by Dakich. The ball was passed out to the far corner and a timeout was called with 16 seconds remaining. Once again Tate found himself with the ball and attempted a long jumper which missed, but Ohio State managed to grab an offensive rebound, this time a go-ahead putback from KBD.

“When you have a close game like this; the other team is really making shots and we get them to miss three straight times down the stretch, a 20 second stretch. We can’t get a rebound on any of the three, it’s really demoralizing.” – V. Edwards on the end of game series.

Purdue Head Coach, Matt Painter was also adamant that the end of game series was critical to the game’s final result. “We did a good job of stopping them, but also part of stopping them is getting the rebound. There at the end, we stopped them… A lot of times in those situations there, it’s not the first shot that gets you, it’s the second one. We had to get that basketball; two different people touched that basketball when they got it at the 16 second mark when they called the timeout. We had to get that one. Normally if we can get those, we can close out games, because we have good free throw shooters.”

With the Buckeyes leading 64-63 and about two seconds left, Painter called a timeout to draw up a play; Mathias would look to inbound the ball and one-armed a pass full court to Haas. Haas had to pick the ball up low, turned around, and got a shot off, but it bounced off the rim and the Buckeye’s exited victorious. A win that Purdue had in its grasp, but allowed to slip away.

Nobody said it would be easy, especially this week for Purdue. A week in which they would have to face the two teams most-closely battling with them for the Big Ten crown. A week that would see them having to face an Ohio State team coming off of a four game home stand before traveling to Michigan State to take on a top five opponent on the road. It’s not just difficult to go undefeated in the Big Ten, it’s nearly impossible and it hasn’t been done since Indiana accomplished the feat in the 1970s.

The loss had to happen at some point, but the question now is how will this Purdue team respond? Will they be humbled by this loss and come out hungrier than ever or will they fold having to face another quality opponent on the road. The facts are that Purdue, at the moment, still controls its own destiny for winning the conference title (the Big Ten doesn’t use tie breakers except to seed the tourney, so if both Ohio State and Purdue were to win out, they’d share the championship) and are still on solid footing to be a top seed in the NCAA Tournament when seeds are announced. With a senior laden team, a matured C. Edwards, and a head coach that has seemingly grown exponentially in just one season, I wouldn’t bet against this Purdue team. The loss may sting to many fans, but the big picture is still the key and that starts with a Big Ten title (or two with the conference tournament played a week too early) before setting their sights on a National Championship run. Buckle up, because this Purdue team is just getting started.

Next up:
Away: 5 Michigan State on Saturday, 2/10 (4 pm, ESPN)
Away: Wisconsin on Thursday, 2/15 (7 pm, ESPN or ESPN2)
Home: Penn State on Sunday, 2/18 (8 pm, BTN)

Quick Hits:
It was Brian Cardinal night at Mackey and he was celebrated with a bobblehead to the first fans through the door as well as spoke at halftime to the crowd… Chris Holtmann is the new Ohio State coach after leaving Butler in the offseason… Mathias has eclipsed 1,000 career points… V. Edwards eclipsed 1,500 career points… Purdue’s win streak was snapped at 19, a school record… Purdue had won 14 straight conference games dating back to last season, also a school record… Purdue has now won just 3 of the past eleven games against Ohio State… It was the first time Purdue had lost at home since the New Year’s Day loss in overtime to Minnesota last season (a span of 21 games)… Ohio State was without Kam Williams for the second straight game due to an indefinite suspension from the team… Purdue lost the game while shooting better in all three phases of the game (.5% better FG, 7% better from three, and 16% better from the line), but attempted ten fewer field goals… After forcing Ohio State into seven turnovers in the first half, the Buckeyes committed just one in the second half (Purdue committed five and twelve, respectively)… Haas continued his recent struggles from the foul line, connecting on only four of his seven attempts (it may be in a mental thing at this point, it’s not for lack of effort as he spent a large chunk of pre-game warmups practicing free throws)… V. Edwards and KBD had similar statlines, Edwards had eleven points (on twelve attempts) and nine rebounds while KBD had 18 points (on 18 tries) and eleven boards… Purdue led the game for nearly 35 minutes, while Ohio State led for just two and a half minutes (and by no more than three points).

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