Three Keys to Ohio State at Purdue TodayPosted by Jonathan Batuello on December 31st, 2013
Big Ten play is here and it gets started today with No. 3 Ohio State‘s trip to West Lafayette to take on Purdue at 1:00 PM ET. The Buckeyes are still undefeated and Purdue has had its struggles in the non-conference season, but the Boilermakers are coming off their most impressive win at West Virginia nine days ago. The match-up will be Ohio State’s second road game of the season, but the first since its trip to Marquette before Thanksgiving (although it should be noted that Purdue students will still be off campus on break, so the crowd may not be as raucous as normal). The Buckeyes need the win to stay near the top of the national rankings and make an early statement that it is the favorite to win the conference. Purdue needs any and all marquee wins to help boost its NCAA Tournament resume, which boasts an 11-3 record but no truly quality victories yet. Here are three keys to this year’s Big Ten season opener. Happy new year, everyone!
- Can Purdue’s guards penetrate and score on Ohio State’s spectacular defense? The Buckeyes’ defense is one of the very best — if not the best — in the country. It leads the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and is among the best in scoring defense and opponents’ field goal percentage. With Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. leading the charge, Purdue will have to manage to find some offense from its trio of slashing guards. The Johnsons and Bryson Scott need to get to the basket and take smart shots, not just go into the lane with reckless abandon to take a leaning, prayer of a floater that has no chance to drop in the basket. Such drives, if performed successfully, will open up lanes for dropoff passes to AJ Hammons, Jay Simpson and the other players cutting to the basket. Without good penetration opportunities today, Purdue’s offense will go stagnant and the Boilermakers will struggle to reach 50 points in the game (leaving almost no chance to win).
- What will Ohio State’s inside players do against Purdue’s Hammons? Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross have both had solid seasons, averaging 9.9 PPG and 12.9 PPG, respectively. While Hammons has struggled offensively, he is still an anchor for the Purdue defense by notching nearly four blocks per game. Ohio State needs solid contributions from two of its leading scorers here to force Hammons into early foul trouble, or at least to get some offensive rebounds and putbacks against Purdue’s weak defensive rebounding. The Buckeyes are not a stellar outside shooting team, so their ability to create a successful inside-out game today in West Lafayette will be critical.
- Can either team close the game out at the foul line? Ohio State shoots 68.6 percent from the free throw line, and Purdue is even worse at 65.4 percent. This ranks both teams among the bottom half of teams in college basketball with the Buckeyes standing at 191st and Purdue at 282nd. In a game that will be low-scoring, every potential point will matter. If one team has a late lead it will be critical to get the best foul shooters on the line (Smith and Craft for Ohio State, Scott and Kendall Stephens for Purdue) to close out the game or risk letting the other team make a late comeback to steal the victory.