Ohio State holds on to stun No. 2 Purdue


COLUMBUS — Refusing to let the considerable distractions surrounding the program deter it from the task at hand, Ohio State delivered its best performance of the season on Sunday en route to a 73-69 upset win over the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers.

Playing for the first time since Chris Holtmann was fired on Wednesday, Ohio State rode a 14-2 closing stretch to a 35-30 lead at halftime, and the Buckeyes never looked back.

Bruce Thornton tied for the game-high with 22 points, and Jamison Battle scored all 19 of his points in the second half as the Buckeyes staved off multiple runs over the final minutes to outlast Purdue.

Zach Edey, the defending National Player of the Year, scored 22 points and added 13 rebounds to lead Purdue, but it was the defense of Zed Key on Edey that proved to be the bigger storyline as Edey struggled at times to even get shots up.

Ohio State (15-11, 5-10) had to weather an early storm as red-hot Purdue jumped out to an 8-0 lead through the opening two minutes of play. Thornton’s three-point play got the Buckeyes on the board and ended the Purdue run, and he went on to score the first eight of his team’s points as Ohio State entered the first media timeout trailing 12-8.

Purdue stretched its lead to as many as seven points midway through the first half as it appeared to be in early control of the game, but a blistering close to the half quickly pushed the game in Ohio State’s favor.

Trailing 28-21 as the clock ticked under six minutes, Key’s first field goal of the game brought Ohio State to within five points, and the Buckeyes were just getting started.

A pair of free throws from Thornton and a basket from Roddy Gayle Jr. cut the Purdue lead to a single point at 28-27 with 3:40 remaining, and then Ohio State received the most unlikely of contributions from seldom-used freshman Austin Parks.

Thrust into action due to the foul trouble of Battle and Felix Okpara, Parks’ layup gave Ohio State its first lead of the game with 3:09 remaining as the momentum continued to build inside the Schottenstein Center. The basket was the first of Parks’ collegiate career, moving his point total to three points in his first season at Ohio State.

Two free throws from Braden Smith temporarily stopped the bleeding for Purdue, giving the Boilermakers a slim 30-29 lead, but Ohio State continued its offensive onslaught. Consecutive buckets by Devin Royal and Thornton pushed Ohio State back in front by three points, forcing Purdue head coach Matt Painter to call a timeout with 1:38 left in the half.

The pause did little to stem the tide, though, as Royal scored following a pair of Purdue misses out of the timeout to increase the Ohio State lead to 35-30 heading into the break.

Purdue (23-3, 12-3) committed six turnovers in the first half, leading to 10 Ohio State points in a troubling trend that would spill into the second half.

Ohio State’s lead hovered around five points through the opening five minutes of the second half before Battle, who was held scoreless in the first half, finally came alive.

Following a jumper by Smith to bring Purdue to within three points at 41-38, Battle connected on his first three of the day to immediately push Ohio State’s lead back to six points.

A turnover by Edey on the ensuing possession led to a quick transition for Ohio State, and Dale Bonner found Battle for another open three that increased the lead to 47-38 and sent the Ohio State crowd into a frenzy as Painter called timeout.

The break did nothing to change momentum as another Purdue turnover, one of 14 total on the day, led to another Ohio State runout. Thornton found Battle on the wing, and Battle didn’t hesitate as he connected on his third three in as many possessions to build a 50-38 lead, the largest of the game for either team.

With 14:20 still on the clock, Purdue slowly began to chip away at the lead, and Edey’s dunk at the 9:51 mark got the Boilermakers to within five points at 54-49.

Ohio State continued to make shots down the stretch to maintain the lead, something it has been unable to consistently do since entering conference play, and entered the final five minutes in control of the game. Bonner’s three-pointer, just his fifth three since Jan. 1, pushed the Buckeyes ahead 65-58 with 3:56 to play.

Purdue responded with a 6-0 run over the next two minutes, capped by a Lance Jones three-pointer, and Ohio State’s lead had vanished as the game headed towards the final minute.

But unlike it had so many times previously this season, Ohio State did not lose its poise, and Battle delivered what proved to be the game-winning bucket on the next possession.

Pulling up from the foul line, Battle’s jumper reclaimed a 67-65 lead for Ohio State, and another Purdue turnover on the ensuing possession led to two more points from Battle as he hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to four points.

Smith’s layup brought Purdue back to within a basket, but with just two seconds remaining, another pair of free throws from Battled iced the game as the final horn sounded and Ohio State students and fans spilled onto the floor to celebrate the upset win.

Following the game, interim head coach Jake Diebler said of the win, “We have some great young men in (the locker room) who came together at a high level these last few days and came together in a way that I don’t know any of us fully anticipated we could get to in this short amount of time. They deserve so much credit, and I am so happy for them.”

Diebler, who was noticeably emotional following the game, said his message to his team in the days following Holtmann’s firing has been to stay aggressive and play with the same sense of urgency with which they practiced this week. With his first win now under his belt, Dibeler said maintaining that approach will be critical to Ohio State’s chances to add more wins down the stretch.

“We have to practice well and maintain the same pace and sense of urgency that we’ve been able to do, and we feel as za staff that that’s going to set us up to best have success in every game moving forward,” he said.

Ohio State returns to action on Thursday when it travels to Minnesota (15-9, 6-7). The Buckeyes defeated the Golden Gophers on Dec. 3 and will be looking to snap a 17-game road losing streak that dates back to last season and is the longest in program history.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

No posts to display