Ohio State Struggles to Pass First Big Ten Test of Season
The undefeated Buckeyes may have faced their toughest test yet against a Purdue team that was 10-3 going into conference play and undefeated at home so far this season. Prior to Purdue, the biggest challenge for Ohio State was against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but the Buckeyes were able to overcome an eight-point deficit in the last few minutes of the game to remain undefeated.
The first half against Purdue was a back and forth affair. The largest lead between the two teams was a five-point lead by Purdue early in the game. Ohio State went into halftime with just a one-point lead that came on a drive by Aaron Craft and a last-second shot by Lenzelle Smith Jr. The Buckeyes struggled to make a three-point shot in the opening half as they made only two out of 12 attempts, but otherwise shot 43 percent.
Ohio State was looking to pull away from the Boilermakers in the second half. In order to do that, they needed to continue to shoot well from two-point range, but also be more successful making their shots from three-point range. They needed Craft to be even more aggressive than usual on the defensive side and contain Purdue’s offense more so than in the first half.
The Buckeyes were not able to pull away until about halfway through the second half. Even then, their biggest lead was by just 12 points, but the Ohio State defense forced the Boilermakers to keep their distance, which inevitably sealed the win for the Buckeyes. Ohio State improved their shooting percentage in the closing half, though, they still struggled to make three-pointers. Craft was his usual aggressive self, excelling on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. He had four of Ohio State’s seven steals and one block, while totaling 10 assists and seven points on the offensive side. LaQuinton Ross once again led the way with 25 points in the Buckeyes’ 78-69 win over the Boilermakers.
Ohio State is deserving of their No. 3 ranking, but they do have a few things to work on before they get deeper into Big Ten play. If they improve their three-point efficiency and are able to establish a go-to scorer, then they will be hard to beat in conference play.