Terone Johnson's buzzer-beater attempt from three just narrowly missed, as Purdue's upset effort of Ohio State was not to be. Ohio State avoids an embarrassing upset and what would have been a major drop in seeding, and moves on to face Nebraska in the quarterfinals.
Just like Indiana and Illinois 20 minutes before, this game was remarkably back and forth through the first half. But again, both teams took a page from Indiana and Illinois' book of how to run ugly-looking offenses. Purdue burst out to a quick 7-1 lead, punctuated by a dumb foul by Sam Thompson on Kendall Stephens' three-point attempt, leading to 3 free throws. But the Buckeyes responded quickly, and went on a run of their own to even the game back up.
The Buckeyes' offensive success came in the fast-break. That's not a diss on Purdue's defense - they looked pretty decent in half-court sets. But when you have Aaron Craft and Sam Thompson running down the floor with a full head of steam, it's unlikely any defense can stop them. But Ohio State was often their own worst enemy on these fast-breaks. There were times when they would get too cute with their 3-on-1 passes. They'd make one too many passes, and what looked like an easy layup either turned into an awkward layup from directly underneath the basket or a turnover.
Ohio State's turnover issues are what kept Purdue in the game, and what made the Buckeyes only hold a 3 point lead at the half. The Buckeyes turned the ball over 9 times in the first half, with both Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott turning the ball over twice. Ohio State's first-half shooting was pretty abysmal as well. They shot 36.7% from the floor, only 12.5% from three, and a disastrous 53.8% from the foul line. The Buckeyes can't keep playing like this, especially in the NCAA Tournament. They're lucky that they had a first-half performance like this against a team like Purdue.
But don't think Purdue played terrible in the first half. A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson played an effective two-man game, as the guards drove the lane and found open men with their cuts. Purdue swung the ball around the key, fed it inside, and scored effectively. All in all, the first half wasn't pretty for either team. But Buckeye fans who expected a blowout learned that this would not be the case.
In the second half, both teams kept going back and forth, and for a while, it looks like the momentum was in Purdue's favor. Hammons and Johnson kept finding their way into the lane, and kept putting up easy layups. But the Buckeyes' offense, led by LaQuinton Ross, never let Purdue fully take control of the game. Ross was the do-it-all star for the Buckeyes. He ended with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and helped neutralize Purdue's quick wings.
Ronnie Johnson's fourth foul with 7:16 left made Purdue's upset attempt a lot more challenging. At that point, Ohio State was already on a run, but Purdue was able to keep the bleeding minimal. But once Johnson sat down, the Buckeyes quickly had two successful offensive possessions: a Ross jumper and a Craft layup. Purdue was forced to call a timeout, but would not sit down quietly. The very next possession, Kendall Stephens banked in a three to tie the game back up. Seeing Purdue hit threes off the backboard made it clear that destiny was on Purdue's side.
But a Sam Thompson alley-oop took some air out of the Purdue comeback. A few minutes later, Aaron Craft did a textbook-Aaron Craft thing. He drove the lane and missed a layup, which was immediately rebounded by Hammons. Then, Craft stole the ball from Hammons and gave the Buckeyes a brand new shot-clock. Ughhh Aaron Craft. Love him or hate him, he's really good. And let's try to keep the referee-bias talk to a minimum. Craft might have reached on that steal, but Hammons traveled hardcore on his ensuing layup to make it a one-point game. The refs were equally good/bad on both sides. Just like Big Ten refs always are - equally good/bad to everyone.
With 14 seconds left and a 62-60 lead, Ronnie Johnson took the ball up the court, and tried to hand the ball off to Terone Johnson. But Lenzelle Smith, Jr. picked his pocket, drove down the court, and was fouled. He made 1-2, giving Purdue the ball back for one final attempt at a comeback.
After Shannon Scott intentionally fouled Johnson to prevent a three, Johnson made the first, but intentionally missed the second. On the rebound, Ohio State knocked the ball out of bonds, giving Purdue one last shot with 1.2 seconds left. The inbounder found Terone Johnson behind the arc, who got off a really good luck, but juuust missed. It was just a few inches short of the hoop, but bounced off. Thus, Ohio State survived, and moves on to face Nebraska.
You gotta give it up to Purdue. They finished last in the Big Ten, and could have rolled over against a clearly better team. But they played with a hustle and a willpower that was absent for most of the conference regular season. The Boilermaker fans deserved something to cheer about after a pretty terrible sports year, but it didn't come today. With Purdue and IU's loss, this is the first year since 1979 where no teams from Indiana will make the tournament. Sad face.
For Ohio State, that's not the performance Buckeye fans hoped for. It's encouraging to see Ohio State win a game they probably weren't supposed to, because that's a skill that will carry you very far, come tournament time. But they were 1-14 from three. They're not going to win anything if they can't shoot moderately effectively.
Well, I'm all BTT'ed out for the day. I hope you enjoyed the exciting early games, and have a wonderful rest of the tournament.