Don’t look now, but at 21-5 (12-1), the Ohio State Buckeyes are officially in first place in the Big Ten.
Even when the Purdue Boilermakers aren’t good, it’s very tough to win a game inside Mackey Arena. When they’re really good and one of the best teams not only in the Big Ten but in the country, it’s near impossible, as WFNY’s Gage Will explained prior to the game. Much like they have all season, the Buckeyes didn’t care what the expectations were, they were going to exceed those expectations and shock the college basketball world—again. Wednesday night, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ magical season under first-year head coach Chris Holtmann continued. In a primetime matchup featuring the top two teams in the conference, the No. 14 Buckeyes shocked the No. 3 Boilermakers, upsetting Purdue, 64-63.
Without starting shooting guard Kam Williams (suspended), Ohio State’s offense was without their best three-point shooter. Against one of the best defenses in the country, every player donning the scarlet and gray needed to step up on both ends of the floor. They did just that—and more.
The Buckeyes were not only without Williams, but starting center Kaleb Wesson was in foul trouble for much of the game, totaling just 12 minutes. To say that’s not ideal when you’re going against a team that has a two 7-foot-2 and 7-foot-3 centers would be an understatement. But whether it was Andre Wesson, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Kyle Young, or at times Micah Potter, Ohio State was able to make things difficult for Isaac Haas, who had just two points in the second half after scoring 16 points in the first 20 minutes.
In Williams absence, Wesson and Musa Jallow stepped up big time from three-point range. Before Wednesday night, they had combined to shoot just 17-of-71 from beyond the arc (24 percent) this season. At Purdue, they combined to shoot 6-of-9 from three-point range, which was a major boost to the offense.
Ohio State’s offense couldn’t buy a bucket early on. Held scoreless for the first five minutes and 34 seconds, their defense and perseverance kept them in the game. In fact, even though they started the game on a scoring drought, they trailed just 5-2 after scoring their first basket of the game.
Purdue led 31-22 with two minutes remaining in the first half, but Holtmann’s crew closed the half on a quick 7-0 run to only trail, 31-29, at halftime. Then, midway through the second half, the Boilermakers led 53-39, but the Buckeyes still never gave up. Trailing 58-51 with five minutes and 32 seconds remaining, Ohio State closed the game on a 13-5 run to pull off the upset, yet again showing that no matter the score, they will continue to claw back and do everything they can to win the game.
Much like he has all season, Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes with 18 points. With five seconds remaining, Tate missed a layup, but due to Bates-Diop hustle, he wanted the ball more than anyone on the court, getting the rebound and scoring immediately between a number of Purdue players to give the Buckeyes the one-point lead with 2.8 seconds remaining. When Tate drove to the basket, Bates-Diop was the farthest player away from the basket, yet there he was, securing the lead and win for Ohio State because he wanted it more.
If he hadn’t proved it already, Bates-Diop’s putback game-winner was yet video clip that he can add to his highlight reel when he’s named the Big Ten Player of the Year at the end of the season.
Following the upset, Ohio State and Purdue are now tied atop the Big Ten, both sharing 12-1 conference records with five Big Ten games to go for each. Beating the Boilermakers in their only matchup of the season, the Buckeyes now control their own destiny in terms of taking home the Big Ten regular season title and securing the No. 1-seed in the conference tournament.
Ohio State not only upset the No. 3-ranked team inside Mackey Arena, which is arguably one of the loudest environments and best home-court advantages in college basketball, but they ended Purdue’s 21-game home winning streak and 19-game winning streak overall. They hadn’t lost since November 23. Keep in mind, the Boilermakers were arguably the hottest team in America heading into Wednesday night.In case you haven’t hopped on the bandwagon yet, there’s still plenty of room.
The team was a little excited following the game, I’d say.
In Holtmann’s first season, this team is already so, so special. Once projected to be one of the worst teams in the Big Ten prior to the season, Ohio State is now in the driver’s seat to win the conference’s regular season title. Incredible would be an understatement. What a turnaround.