Basketball Preview: Ohio State Defends Home Court Against Purdue With .500 Big Ten Record On The Line

By Colin Hass-Hill on February 15, 2020 at 7:15 am
Duane Washington Jr.

The last time Ohio State had a chance to get back to .500 in the Big Ten, it failed to do so in Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers rolled over Chris Holtmann’s team.

On Saturday, the Buckeyes will get a second opportunity, and this time it’ll come at the Schottenstein Center. Three days after staving off a late comeback from Rutgers for a six-point win, Ohio State will be back at home to face Purdue at noon. 

Who Where When TV
Purdue (14-11, 7-7) Schottenstein Center 12 p.m. FOX

To Holtmann, Ohio State will have to beat a “bona fide NCAA tournament team” to reach 7-7 in conference play.

“I think a lot of their program,” Holtmann said. “What they've done in this league for a number of year, including this year, is really, really impressive. They've been able to maintain a certain standard of, really, excellence with their run.”

Like Ohio State, the Boilermakers have had a roller coaster of season that has them at 14-11 overall and 7-7 in the Big Ten. 

Their highs? Beating VCU and Virginia in the non-conference portion of their schedule, decimating Michigan State at home, beating Wisconsin by 19 points, routing Iowa by 36 points and topping Indiana on the road.

Their lows? Losing to Texas and Nebraska – Nebraska! – early in the season, putting up 37 points on the road against Illinois and dropping home games against Penn State and the Illini.

“They obviously, like all of us, have had some ups and downs to their season,” Holtmann said. “But I think they're clearly a top-30 team in the country. We're going to see their very best tomorrow. You always see that from a really well-coached team after a home loss. They're just a week removed from playing really, really well at Indiana in a rival game where they played exceptionally well on the road.”

Three Important Boilermakers

Trevion Williams (6-foot-9, 270 pounds)

No Boilermaker averages more points (11.2) or rebounds (7.4) per game than Williams, a bruiser down low with the seventh-best individual offensive-rebounding rate in the nation. He has six double-doubles, including a 36-point, 20-rebound performance in a double-overtime loss to Michigan. He’ll lead the Boilermakers in an intriguing battle in the post.

Jahaad Proctor (6-foot-3, 215 pounds)

In the offseason, Purdue picked up Proctor as a graduate transfer from High Point, where he was a second-team All-Big South honoree, with hopes that he’d help make up for the loss of Carsen Edwards to the NBA. 

Proctor, who’s averaging 9.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 25.9 minutes per game, had a strong start to the season, scoring double figures in 10 of the first 11 games. He then scored fewer than 10 points in the following nine games, leading to his removal from the starting lineup. In the past five games, though, Proctor has relocated his scoring acumen, dropping at least 15 points in three of them.

Matt Haarms (7-foot-3, 250 pounds)

Along with Williams, Haarms is part of a frontcourt that doesn’t lack any size. The Dutch center averages 9.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21.3 minutes minutes per game. As one of the country’s tallest players, he’s a challenging matchup down low, and he has hit 38.5 percent of his 3-pointers, as well.

“Haarms has been in and out of the lineup with injury,” Holtmann said. “When he's with them, he makes them different.”

Three Important Buckeyes

Kaleb Wesson

At times in his career, Wesson has struggled to finish inside against top-of-the-line size, which Purdue certainly possesses. On Saturday, he’ll need to do his best to pull the big men away from the rim with his outside shot before attacking them inside with what he hopes would be more room. Wesson's averaging a team-high 14.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

Duane Washington Jr.

As the season progresses, Washington gets further from his early season scoring efficiency. Yet neither he nor Holtmann are counting out him finding his form again. Washington has shown flashes, and with the end of the regular season just a little more than three weeks away, he needs to find consistency.

“In particular, our sophomore guards have to grow up really quickly,” Holtmann said. “And by grow up, I'm talking about a run of consistency that we saw with (Keyshawn Woods) last year and C.J. (Jackson) to a certain extent.”

Kyle Young

Purdue’s size poses challenges to most teams its faces, and it'll be up to those like Young to minimize its impact on Saturday. Perhaps most importantly, he'll try to get the Boilermakers off the glass. They have the nation's 21st-best offensive-rebounding rate, grabbing 34.9 percent of their misses. Young, one of Ohio State's starting forwards, averages 5.8 rebounds per game. 

Three Numbers To Know

Defensive Turnover Rate

Within conference games, Purdue forces more turnovers than any other team in the Big Ten, turning opponents over at a rate of 19.5 percent. To a CJ Walker-led Ohio State team that ranks 12th in the conference, the Boilermakers will offer a stiff test on Saturday.

“They're just really disruptive,” Holtmann said. “They're active. They try to keep you from changing sides, really pressure the ball, try to keep it out of the post.”

3-Point Shooting

No team in the Big Ten has, per statistics, defended 3-pointers worse than the Buckeyes. Opponents within the conference have shot 37.9 percent against them, with that number only continuing to rise in recent weeks. Purdue, then, might be a tough matchup. Matt Painter’s group is 85th in the country with a 3-point percentage of 34.9. Four rotation players shoot better than 35 percent from range.

Free-Throw Rate

Purdue doesn’t get to the line much, and when the team gets there, it struggles to convert. It ranks second-to-last in the Big Ten both in free-throw rate (23.3) and free-throw percentage (64.5). Over the course of the season, the Boilermakers are 326th in free-throw rate and 308th in free-throw percentage.

Other Notes

  • Holtmann on the status of Kyle Young, who appeared to possibly re-injure his leg in Wednesday’s victory: “He's good. It was more ankle than leg. He's in good shape.”
  • Holtmann on walk-on forward Harrison Hookfin: “He's been a great addition as a walk-on. We picked him up last year during Kyle's injury because we wanted someone with size. He's really jumped in and been great. He's really smart. He wants to be a doctor. he's serious about his academics and brings kind of a serious-minded approach to our group. He's physical. He throws his body around. He's great with the scout team. It really helps when you've got a guy who's smart with the scout team.”
  • Holtmann on his thoughts on the season: “I try not to reflect back on the season until the story's finally written and stay in the moment as much as possible because it can be overwhelming if you don't.”

How It Plays Out

Based on how both teams’ seasons have played out, how can anybody possibly feel confident in their pick? We’re going with the home team, meaning an Ohio State win.

The Buckeyes are favored by 5.5 points, per Bovada, and by five points, per KenPom.

Prediction: Ohio State 69, Purdue 66

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