The #1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes face their toughest Big Ten test yet when the #12 Purdue Boilermakers come to town tonight at Value City Arena. Purdue(17-3) has been impressive this season, going 6-1 in conference play.
Ohio State is a perfect 20-0, giving head coach Thad Matta his 11th straight 20-win campaign. The Buckeyes are 14-0 at home, and they are 31-1 in Columbus over the past two seasons. Ironically, the lone loss in that span came against Purdue in a 60-57 final last year -- the Boilermakers' first win at Value City Arena in 10 tries. Ohio State won at Illinois this past Saturday, taking a 73-68 decision despite being outshot and outrebounded in the game.
The all-time series between these two conference rivals currently stands at 82-75 in favor of Purdue, and the Boilermakers have won three of the last four meetings.
Purdue continues to ride the coattails of arguably the best duo in the Big Ten in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, as they combine to average more than half (38.6 ppg) of the team's total scoring output on the season (75.0 ppg). They are the only two averaging double figures for the season, but two others, Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson have joined them in conference games, netting 11.7 and 10.4 ppg, respectively in the seven league tilts played thus far. Moore poured in 26 points, and Johnson added 20 more in Purdue's 10-point win over Michigan State on Saturday. Jackson pitched in with a career-high 19 points for the Boilermakers, who shot 58 percent from the field against a group of Spartans who came into the clash allowing just 40 percent efficiency to the opposition for the season. Purdue drained 6-of-12 three-point attempts in the game, and a 22-10 edge in points from the foul line certainly played a role in the final outcome. The 76 points put up by MSU was something of an anomaly as the Boilermakers yield just 59.4 ppg on the year and had allowed an opponent to score in the 70s just one other time (70 points by Minnesota).
Led by freshman sensation Jared Sullinger (17.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg), Ohio State is hoping to run the table in the Big Ten and make a strong push toward a possible national title. Sullinger doesn't have to do it alone though, as the Buckeyes also get considerable contributions from guys like William Buford (13.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.4 apg), David Lighty (12.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.7 apg) and Jon Diebler (11.7 ppg). As a team, OSU is knocking down just shy of 50 percent of its total shots en route to 78.9 ppg. Diebler, Lighty and Buford are all shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, helping the team knock down 40.2 percent of their shots from long range. When they have their backs to the basket, the Buckeyes yield a mere 57.2 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 41.3 percent overall and 31.9 percent on three-point attempts. OSU also owns favorable margins in rebounding (+5.4) and turnovers (+6.4). Sullinger put forth another stellar effort in the Buckeyes' recent win over Illinois, scoring 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, while Diebler tallied 15 points on the strength of a 3-of-5 showing from downtown. A commanding 24-8 edge in points from three free-throw line played a major role in Ohio State staying undefeated on the season.
Don't expect the Boilermakers to be intimidated in this matchup, as coach Matt Painter's club has the talent to knock off the Buckeyes in their own building for the second straight time. That said, expect Ohio State to get the job done as a balanced offensive attack will be the key.