Since A.J. Hammons arrived at Purdue four years ago, the Boilermakers have been tough to handle in the post. Adding Isaac Haas and five-star recruit Caleb Swanigan to the roster gives Matt Painter a big-man rotation no team in the country can match.
The rate at which teams run their offense through the low post has sharply declined over the past decade. With all of their talent down low, it's still a necessity in in West Lafayette, Indiana. Ohio State has a solid array of low-post defenders, although Trevor Thompson found himself in foul trouble for most of the game.
Jae'Sean Tate used his relatively small frame as well as you possibly could in containing Swanigan.
Tate had some help from his teammates and he did not cede position to Swanigan. On this play, after a drop step to his right, Swanigan exposes the ball and gives JaQuan Lyle a chance to disrupt Swanigan while he gathers:
Swanigan was dominant on the boards but failed to establish the same kind of position against Tate when looking to score in the paint. Using your body to establish leverage in the low post isn't the only key to defending down there, of course. It starts on the perimeter.
Here, the issue was the post-entry feed. Keita Bates-Diop deflects it and Tate seizes the opportunity for a steal:
The senior Hammons was much more effective than Swanigan. The freshman was hit only two of his 10 field goal attempts while Hammons hit nearly half of his.
Giddens had to guard him early in the first half because of Thompson's foul trouble. The idea was to force Hammons to use his weak hand, which Giddens does here. When Hammons stepped through to his right, help defense from Loving and Giddens' positioning forced an awkward angle on this shot:
While Giddens forced Hammons out to the free-throw line after initially being buried underneath the basket, the Purdue center has some range on his jumper. If Loving arrived when Hammons put the ball on the floor, perhaps he could've offered a better contest:
Giddens' night only got more difficult from there. Haas subbed in and added another two inches and 30 pounds to defend. He played only 11 minutes but scored 10 in that span.
Haas recorded all of his field goals against Giddens and was more creative in establishing position than his teammates. On one possession, he posted up in transition while the rest of the Boilermakers trailed behind him. Bates-Diop's help forced him to hang on to the ball longer. Once Haas backed in, however, he had the proper position to step to his left and lay it in:
Here, Haas attempted to set a down screen to free up Dakota Mathias. He did not make any contact with Kam Williams, making Mathias' catch difficult while Williams nearly came up with a steal.
Still, the threat of a screen allowed Haas to establish position on Giddens. He wisely spun to his right before Tate arrives:
With Haas' size advantage and Giddens' athleticism, it would've been wise to front the post earlier even if Thad Matta's teams rarely do so.
Obviously the end result wasn't what the Buckeyes wanted, but Giddens' front forced a tough angle on this entry pass. Neither Tate nor Lyle came up with the ball:
Ohio State does not play Purdue again in the regular season. If they match up again in the Big Ten tournament, I expect Haas to play more than 11 minutes. Hopefully Trevor Thompson can play more than 13 minutes and stay out of foul trouble, as well.