Wednesday night was a fun one for Big Ten fans who are found of surprises, but who was surprising whom? At this point, anyone who isn't taking Purdue seriously isn't paying much attention, and Penn State losing close road games is getting old quickly. Well, at least the games were exciting.
Game of the night: Ohio State at Purdue
The Boilers are real! After a 3-3 start to conference play, Matt Painter's team has rolled off four straight wins, including three consecutive home triumphs over ranked opponents. The latest came over Ohio State on Wednesday night. After Rapheal Davis hit a layup to make the score 54-46 with under three minutes to play, the Buckeyes inched closer with points on three of their next four possessions. Missed free throws by Jon Octeus and Kendall Stephens kept Ohio State in the game, but D'Angelo Russell missed a three-pointer that could have tied it with 11 seconds left. With his team down by just two, Russell missed against at the buzzer, and Purdue held on to win 60-58.
It was another great game for Russell, who scored 20 points while also grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists, but Davis was more efficient. One of the Big Ten's most underrated players needed just 10 field goals to reach 20 points and also collected six rebounds. That was enough to put the Boilers over the top in a game where both squads struggled with their outside shooting. Purdue won by defending the paint (A.J. Hammons scored only seven points but also had seven blocks) and getting to the free throw line. Both teams shot 42 percent from the field, but the Boilers shot 18 more free throws than the Bucks.
The win puts Purdue at 7-3 in league play and tied with Maryland for second place behind Wisconsin.
Penn State at Maryland
You'd think the Terps would pounce on a chance to right their ship after getting housed by Ohio State, but D.J. Newbill and the Newbettes kept this one close throughout. Even an emphatic one-handed dunk by Dez Wells over Donovon Jack wasn't enough to put Penn State away. The Lions couldn't stop Wells, who scored 23 points (his first time with more than 20 since mid-November) on just 10 field goal attempts, but they did hold Melo Trimble without a field goal for the whole game. The difference-maker was none other than Jon Graham. The former Nittany Lion went 6-for-7 from the field for a career-high 16 points to prop up a Maryland offense that went just 3-for-15 from three-point range.
The 64-58 Maryland victory was another close road loss for Penn State, who just had its heart broken in Champaign over the weekend. As usual, D.J. Newbill was the leading scorer (18 points), but he missed on about two-thirds of his shots, and Geno Thorpe was the only other Lion to score in double figures. At least Brandon Taylor showed up in the second half to knock down some three-pointers to keep the game close. The Lions had been without him due to a knee injury and he did manage to stretch out the Maryland defense a bit.