Three-game win streaks will be on the line when No. 15 Ohio State hosts Purdue on Tuesday.
The Buckeyes (11-3, 5-3 Big Ten) got their third victory in a row Saturday, an 87-81 decision at Illinois. Following successive road wins, they return home, where they are unbeaten this season in eight games, including three Big Ten contests.
Tuesday’s game was moved from Jan. 27 to accommodate schedule changes in the conference due to COVID-19 protocols, and it lands in a spot that means Ohio State will have one more day of rest than the Boilermakers (10-5, 5-3), who defeated visiting Penn State 80-72 on Sunday.
The short turnaround is rare for regular-season conference games. It’s the first time in 20 years that Purdue has had had just a one-day break between Big Ten games (Feb. 27 and 29, 2000).
“That’s just part of it,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said on the Boilermakers’ postgame radio show Sunday. “We’re in this position because somebody else has some issues and then everything gets rearranged.”
The Boilermakers recovered from a 1-3 slump over the new year, losing to three ranked teams – Iowa, Rutgers and Illinois — to beat Michigan State, Indiana and Penn State. Now they are amid a tough stretch in which they play three times in six days, culminating Friday when they host No. 7 Michigan.
Purdue defeated the Buckeyes 67-60 at home on Dec. 16, but Ohio State is a changed team.
The Buckeyes are finding their rhythm despite the absence of point guard CJ Walker and backup Jimmy Sotos. Walker (hand) has missed the past three games and Sotos (shoulder) two. Forward Justice Sueing has taken over some of the ball-handling role and freshman Meechie Johnson, who has played three games since enrolling in December, has stepped in as well.
“What we found out, what we kind of knew, is that we were going to have some depth, and a strength of our team could be our depth if our guys embrace the role and play it at a high level,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “So far, they’ve done that, and we’ll see if they continue to do that.
Not only was Johnson added, but Harvard graduate transfer Seth Towns made his Buckeyes’ debut three days after the loss to Purdue after rehabbing from multiple knee surgeries.
“We’ve made a ton of progress as a team, chemistry-wise and so on,” said Towns, who’s had three 11-point performances in eight games. “We’re finding each other where we like our spots to be and you see so many guys on the team coming alive because of it.”
Purdue likely can’t get away with the miserable shooting it had against Penn State when the Boilermakers missed their first 14 attempts on 3-point shots. They finished the game 6 for 32 (18.8 percent).
What’s more, Purdue led Penn State by 17 with 9 1/2 minutes to play but it became a 76-72 score with 17 seconds left.
“The last 10 minutes was just a torture chamber to coach,” Painter said, “with everything you had to go through like missing free throws, letting guys hit pull up 35-footers, going for rebounds, not boxing out and letting them get it.”
–Field Level Media