Ohio State didn’t need Lou Brown to deliver the news. Head coach Thad Matta was sufficient enough. The Buckeyes are once again on a winning streak.
Friendly February yielded more positive results for Ohio State on Saturday as it flicked away upset-minded Purdue 67-49 in primetime at Value City Arena. It’s the Buckeyes third consecutive win after losing five of six to end January near the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
“I think we are a way better team. It’s a group effort,” junior forward LaQuinton Ross said. “When everyone is making shots, I think we're almost unstoppable on offense.”
Ross led Ohio State's scoring effort with 17 points. Lenzelle Smith Jr., in his 100th start, connected on four three-pointers to score 16 points.
“It definitely opens things up for us,” Matta said. “We like Lenzelle to take those shots when he is open. I like seeing him playing like a senior.”
It took four minutes for the Buckeyes to warm up, but the almost 10 minutes that followed were dominant and resounding. Ohio State scored 10 straight points in a run that eventually reached 20-5. During the stretch, Purdue was 2-of-15 shooting with three turnovers.
After missing its first six shots of the game, the Buckeyes finished 46.3 percent from the field and were 8-of-19 from long range.
“It was all stimulated with our defense,” Smith said. “Our stops led to great offense. It picks us up as a team. Guys were high-fiving, and it was an electric feeling in the building.”
“I like the way we are playing right now.“– Thad Matta
Two players who’ve drawn the ire of fans – Amir Williams and Shannon Scott – factored largely in the Buckeyes widening their lead. In eight first-half minutes, Williams finished with four points, four rebounds and three blocks. A majority of those stats coincided with Purdue big man A.J. Hammons sitting on the bench.
Scott scored five straight points during Ohio State’s 20-5 run. The duo finished with a combined 18 points, five rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals.
“I think I got my edge back a little bit,” Scott said. “I know coming off the bench, you’ve got to bring a spark to the team, so I feel right now that’s my role and I’m able to do that by being aggressive. I’ve got to keep doing that every game.”
During the Buckeyes’ resurgence, they’ve displayed a newfound confidence in crunch time. After the Boilermakers whittled a 10-point Ohio State advantage to three with nine minutes left, the Buckeyes outscored Purdue 19-4 the rest of the way. The Boilermakers committed six turnovers in the crucial stretch, including five in seven possessions.
- Ohio State held Purdue to a season-low 49 points.
- Smith Jr. hit three bombs. Ohio State is 7-0 this season when he makes at least three triples.
Purdue’s leading scorer – Terone Johnson – was limited to 1-of-8 shooting on the night with three points.
“We self-destructed and turned the ball over, and you can’t do that against a team like Ohio State,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said.
In three games off the bench, Scott has scored 29 points on 50 percent shooting. He’s also recorded, seven rebounds, nine assists and five steals. Scott started the first 21 games before asking Matta to play a reserve role.
It started going downhill for Scott when the losses piled up. He became a less efficient player on offense and began fouling, which was uncharacteristic of the defensive stalwart. He admitted to deferring to senior Aaron Craft at times when other options were open. The pass-first, shoot-last mentality wasn’t always the team’s best selection.
But the two point guards have since meshed, scoring 60 points during Ohio State’s three-game win streak.
For the time being, the Buckeyes occupied fourth place alone in the Big Ten standings. That could change pending the outcome of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game. Ohio State is 19-5 overall and 6-5 in the conference. It hosts 10th-ranked Michigan on Tuesday night.