By the Numbers:
|10-3 (0-0)||Record||13-0 (0-0)|
Dec. 31, 2013 - Mackey Arena - West Lafayette, In.
1:00 PM ET, ESPN2
The Boilermakers are entering conference play at a solid 10-3 and coming off of nice wins versus West Virginia and Maryland-Eastern Shore. While the Boilermakers put themselves into decent shape for a tournament run in 2014, they did loss a critical game against Washington State early in the season. Purdue will likely need nine or ten wins in the Big Ten to get back to the NCAA Tournament and an upset of undefeated Ohio State would be a season-defining victory. Looking to take advantage of a traditionally vocal home crowd, Purdue will be aiming for the upset.
On the other side of things is Ohio State, entering the Big Ten undefeated with 13 wins. Not only is Ohio State undefeated, but besides the comeback against Notre Dame, no one has came withing ten points of the Buckeyes. Ohio State is coming off of an impressive 71-31 dismantling of UL-Monroe and will look to keep it up in their conference opener. After a hot start to the season, Ohio State now has hopes of a Big Ten title. This is looking like even more of a possibility with Michigan State looking vulnerable and the depleted Michigan Wolverines looking like a Big Ten afterthought without McGary.
Projected Starting Lineups:
|Ronnie Johnson||G||Aaron Craft|
|Terone Johnson||G||Shannon Scott|
|Rapheal Davis||G||Lenzelle Smith Jr.|
|Basil Smotherman||F||LaQuinton Ross|
|A.J. Hammons||C||Amir Williams|
Purdue Players to Watch:
Terone Johnson - Purdue has improved offensively but consistency issues mean their scoring tends to come and go in streaks. Terone will likely have the ball in his hands a lot today and he's a volume shooter so if he can't hit at an effective rate then Purdue's offense is likely in serious trouble. At the same time, if Johnson can get hot he can easily carry the offense here. Ohio State is capable of scoring so Purdue will need to add points and Johnson is the most likely candidate for leading the Boilermakers in the scoring department.
A.J. Hammons - Hammons hasn't always ended up in the starting lineup, but he's still more or less the big man down low for Purdue. Purdue has under utilized their bigs most of the season, but if they want to compete with the Buckeyes they'll likely need a productive day from their seven foot center. Besides finding ways to score down low, Hammons needs to avoid fouls to make sure he's out on the court. Hammons ability to pick up rebounds and block shots could be pivotal if Purdue wants to push Ohio State here.
Kendall Stephens - Purdue's three point shooting has improved this season and for an offense that struggles with consistency at times, if they can get hot from deep it would greatly increase the potential of an upset here. One of the easiest ways to spark an upset is to shoot at a high percentage from three. If Purdue is going to be successful from outside it'll likely be because of Stephens. While Stephens is a dangerous outside shooter, he still needs to make some better decisions from outside as sometimes he's been a bit too eager to put it up.
Ohio State Players to Watch:
Aaron Craft - Craft has been a bit under the radar throughout the season so far but I'm under the impression everyone will come to remember him during the Big Ten season. Craft's ability to dish the ball and make timely shots will always benefit Ohio State, but his biggest benefit is his pesky defense that wrecks havoc on opponents. Purdue occasionally struggles with decision making and if Craft can create turnovers it should make Ohio State's road to victory considerably easier.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. - Purdue's inability to consistently score throughout their games means that if you can hit enough timely three pointers, you can put the game far enough out of reach to force Purdue to stray from their gameplan and start forcing shots. If Ohio State is going to be able to score from outside it'll likely be because of Smith, who is shooting 44.6% from three. Purdue has had issues closing out on shooters and Smith could have a field day if he's left open throughout the day.
LaQuinton Ross - Coming off of two double-doubles, Ross should be a force down low. His ability to score inside and clean up on the glass will benefit the Buckeyes, creating scoring opportunies and second chance points. Purdue's bigs have struggled a bit with fouls so if Ross can draw a couple of cheap fouls it could create even more issues for the Boilers. Ross has also scored in double digits seven of the last eight games, becoming one of the Buckeyes top offensive weapons.
The last two seasons Purdue has played Ohio State considerably closer than anticipated, putting themselves into position for the upset. Of course each of these upset bids ultimately fell short, with Purdue not being able to make enough key plays to pick up the W. Ohio State is coming into this game very hot and is once again looking like a solid favorite, regardless of the fact that they're entering a hostile environment in West Lafayette.
The end result is a Purdue team that should be fired up and hungry for the win. Purdue will come out and compete with Ohio State throughout the early afternoon but there's simply too much inconsistency from Purdue to overcome a well balanced Buckeyes attack. Purdue will leave points on the table with some crucial misses and free throw woes, eventually succumbing to Ohio State down the stretch in the second half. It'll be closer than expected, but look for Ohio State to improve to 14-0 and Purdue to miss out on another chance for a marquee victory.