Purdue looking to bounce back against Ohio State
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or firstname.lastname@example.org January 7, 2013 11:10PM
CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 05: Deshaun Thomas #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes shoots the ball over Joseph Bertrand #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall on January 5, 2013 in Champaign, Illinois. Ilinois defeated Ohio State 74-55. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Updated: February 9, 2013 6:23AM
When it counted most, Purdue didn’t respond on the road against a Top 25 opponent.
Three days later, the Boilermakers get another crack at a nationally-ranked opponent, this time at home.
After their 84-61 loss at then-No. 18 (and now No. 22) Michigan State on Saturday, they play No. 15 Ohio State on Tuesday night at Mackey Arena.
“No matter what it might be, when adversity sets in, you have to be able deal with it. We get emotional,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter, noting the issues date to non-conference play.
“We didn’t handle some things (against the Spartans). We made a couple poor decisions in there. ... When we think things are going against us, instead of just having some mental toughness and fighting through it — make layups, make free throws, stick with our defensive assignments and what we’re supposed to do — we don’t. That’s what we have to learn to do; we have to learn to be more mentally tough in those stretches just to stay in the game.”
Ohio State (11-3, 1-1 Big Ten) is coming off its own road loss on Saturday, 74-55 at then-No. 11 Illinois, a team Purdue (7-7, 1-1) defeated at home to open conference play. The Buckeyes are 0-2 on the road this season, with their other loss coming to now-No. 1 Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
This game is the only one in the regular season between the Boilermakers and Buckeyes. Ohio State won the only regular-season game last year, in Columbus, then won in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Obviously, both teams have changed dramatically from last season, including Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger leaving early for the NBA. Junior forward Deshaun Thomas, a Fort Wayne Bishop Luers graduate, has become the Buckeyes’ go-to player, averaging 20.2 points and 6.8 rebounds.
“Deshaun Thomas is as good as it gets when you talk about a combo forward that can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways,” said Painter, comparing Ohio State losing Sullinger to Purdue losing JaJuan Johnson. “They’re playing to their strengths. They have probably the best scoring forward in the country, and their offense is run through him, and rightfully so.”
Several Purdue players likely will rotate guarding Thomas.
“You don’t stop a guy like that; you just try to make it tough on him and try to slow him down,” Painter said. “Don’t let him catch the ball in his sweet spots. When he gets in a rhythm, he makes them when people are on him. You have to try your best to keep him out of a rhythm, but that’s easier said than done.”
Feisty junior point guard Aaron Craft (8.5 points, 4.9 assists, 1.9 steals) is an elite on-ball defender, also with a knack for anticipating passes. Junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. averages 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. The Buckeyes also have size inside with 6-foot-8 senior Evan Ravenel and 6-11 sophomore Amir Williams.
“Ohio State’s a very good team,” senior swingman D.J. Byrd said. “They have a good leader in Aaron Craft as a point guard ... Deshaun Thomas is one of the best players in the Big Ten, let alone the country.”
So being able to contain those two guys, and then not let anyone else get open looks and get into a rhythm will be key for us.
“They’re coming off a loss, we’re coming off a loss, so it should be a battle.”