Basketball Preview: No. 20 Purdue at Ohio State

By Tim Shoemaker on January 5, 2017 at 8:35 am
Thad Matta talks to C.J. Jackson earlier this season.

Big Ten basketball is officially back in Columbus.

After dropping its conference opener on the road Sunday night, Ohio State returns home to Value City Arena on Thursday for its first league game of the season in front of the home crowd. The Buckeyes host No. 20 Purdue at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

Purdue (12-3, 1-1) Value City Arena 7 pm. ESPN

Both teams are coming off losses and hope to rebound to avoid slow starts in the Big Ten. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta knows it's tough to turn around a season in this conference if his team doesn't get off to the start it wants.

"It’s such a deep league," Matta said. "There’s no question you take it one game at a time and knowing [Thursday] night’s game is a very big basketball game because it’s the next one on the schedule. It’s one of nine home games for you.”

Let's break down Thursday's matchup between the Buckeyes and Boilermakers a little further. 

Opponent Breakdown

Purdue enters Thursday's game sporting a 12-3 record and a 1-1 mark in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers knocked off Iowa in their conference opener, but are coming off a 91-82 overtime loss at home Sunday against Minnesota. That result certainly opened some eyes around the league.

Make no mistake about it, however. Purdue is one of the favorites to win the Big Ten this season.

"I think they're really, really good," Matta said. "They shoot it really well and their post play, obviously, is tremendous."

Leading the charge this year for the Boilermakers is Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan. The Fort Wayne, Indiana native has been a double-double machine so far this season and is averaging 18.5 points and 13.0 rebounds per game.

"I think he's playing extremely well right now," Matta said of Swanigan. "Just statistically — numbers, percentages, that sort of thing — he's producing at a very high level. He's definitely not one guy that can be stopped alone. Everybody's gotta be aware of where he is and what he's doing."

Swanigan, paired with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards, gives Purdue the best frontcourt in the league. Haas, a 7-foot-2 junior center averages 13.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while Edwards, a 6-foot-8 wing, contributes 12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest.

Carsen Edwards is one of the league's better freshman as the 6-foot guard gives Purdue 10.7 points per game. P.J. Thompson (7.8 ppg., 3.6 apg.) and Dakota Mathias (9.7 ppg., 50 percent 3-point shooter) also give the Boilermakers some depth in the backcourt.

"Post defense starts on the perimeter and making sure there's some type of pressure on the ball so it's not an easy entry pass," senior Marc Loving said. "Just gotta try to push the big guys off the block as much as possible and make it difficult on them."

Purdue comes in at No. 14 in Ken Pomeroy's advanced statistical ratings. The Boilermakers rank 19th nationally in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Purdue scores an average of 115.1 points per 100 possessions while only allowing 92.7.

Buckeye Breakdown

A bad finish to the first half doomed Ohio State in its Big Ten opener against Illinois as the Buckeyes fell behind by 15 at one point and simply couldn't recover. Ohio State, again, was in the ballgame down the stretch, but eventually, it was the Illini who pulled out a 75-70 victory in Champaign.

Now the Buckeyes must find a way to bounce back, as an 0-2 start to the Big Ten season would be a big blow. Ohio State's first five league games are all difficult; it desperately needs to win this one at home against Purdue.

“Right now, we’re 0-1 in the Big Ten and it’s definitely something that we need: a win under our belt," Loving said. "There’s not really much after that. We need to get a win.”

Sophomore point guard JaQuan Lyle played one of the best games of his career in the loss to the Illini finishing with a game-high 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting with five rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers.

Lyle didn't get the necessary help he needed, however, as Loving and Kam Williams each scored 10 and the Buckeyes shot just 41.5 percent from the field. Matta and Co. are searching for a bit more balance offensively.

"We really try to spread the ball around," Loving said. "As you can see, we have multiple guys in double figures so we want to be the team that's hard to scout for other teams. Most teams have one or two guys who do the majority of the scoring or have the ball the majority of the time, but moving the ball is something we really want to key on in just trying to make it difficult for other teams."

Ohio State continues to fall in KenPom as it now stands at No. 45 overall. The Buckeyes rank 40th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (94.8 points per 100 possessions) but just 76th in adjusted offensive efficiency (108.5 points per 100 possessions). It's going to be a challenge for Ohio State to put points up on the Boilermakers.

How It Plays Out

Ohio State certainly needs this victory with back-to-back road games at Minnesota and Wisconsin next on the schedule followed by a home matchup with Michigan State. Falling to 0-2 in the Big Ten with that up next would be bad news for the Buckeyes. 

But Purdue is coming off a loss, too, so there will certainly be plenty of motivation for the Boilermakers to bounce back and get themselves back toward the top of the Big Ten standings here in the early going.

KenPom gives Ohio State a 41 percent chance to win this game despite the fact it's being played at Value City Arena. The Boilermakers are projected to earn a two-point win.

Ultimately, I think Purdue's size on the interior proves to be a bit too much to overcome and the Boilermakers get that bounce back win in a very tightly-contested ballgame. 

Tim's prediction: Purdue 70, Ohio State 67

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