Ohio State’s 22 3-pointers hoisted in the first half alone of Tuesday’s 67-65 loss to Purdue were as many as it had attempted in half of its prior games. Only twice in program history – an NCAA tournament win against South Dakota State three years ago and a 42-point beatdown of Florida A&M in 2006 – have the Buckeyes ever launched more than the 35 triples they took in regulation in the two-point defeat. It had never before shot this many threes and lost.
The Buckeyes made 40 percent of their threes, a rate that would make almost every coach in the country smile, gaining 42 points from their long-range bombs. Except they lost this one.
And they happened to lose due to a back-breaking three from a freshman guard – Jaden Ivey, who scored 15 points in the Boilermakers’ victory – on a squad that hit only five of its 20 3-pointers all night. It was a loss no less than excruciating for a team that led on its home court in the Schottenstein Center for more than 35 minutes and came just a couple points away from extending its winning streak to four games.
“Unfortunately they made a really, really, really tough shot, a big shot at the end,” Duane Washington said. “Credit to (number) 23 on their team.”
Ohio State lived by its 14 made threes and died by a pair of threes.
Sasha Stefanovic, a Purdue guard, drained a game-tying triple with 55 seconds remaining. Head coach Chris Holtmann said Stefanovic had space due to “a miscommunication on the switch” for which he took the blame. Ivey followed suit with a step-back 3-pointer over the hands of Justice Sueing with just five seconds left on the clock.
In between their makes, the Buckeyes had a look of their own from deep. Except it wasn’t exactly designed that way.
Holtmann wanted to get E.J. Liddell the ball in an isolation situation on the right side of the floor, intending for his sophomore forward coming off a 26-point outing to find a good look. As a secondary option, he ran Justin Ahrens – who at the time was 3-for-8 from beyond the arc – off some “screening action.” Liddell got the ball poked away from him, and it got kicked out to Ahrens whose three got blocked and subsequently knocked out of bounds off of Ohio State.
“Kid made a nice play and deflected the shot,” Holtmann said. “Looked like it was a tough call at the end. Sounds like it was a 50-50 call. I've not looked at the TV replay.”
In a sense, that singular play was a microcosm of the game.
Ohio State, unable to get what it wanted inside the 3-point line, had to dish it outside and take a shot from deep. That happened again and again.
Early on, it didn’t matter much. The ball movement was pretty, most of the looks were open and shots fell. The Buckeyes made nine of their first 19 3-pointers, including four from Washington, two from Ahrens and two from Sueing. Their ninth made triple – from Washington – put them ahead 35-24 with 2:54 remaining in the first half.
Things started to go south from there. Ohio State missed 10 of its next 12 3-point attempts, a mark made worse when considering the team only made two 2-pointers during that 16-minute stretch.
“We made some shots early, which kind of, when you make shots it eliminates the other stuff. You don't see it as much,” Washington said. “The ball's not always going to go in the rim, good shot or bad shot – and defense is something we always have to be consistent, and effort and toughness. That's always got to be consistent with us.”
When the Buckeyes needed something other than outside jumpers, they couldn’t get it. That was part of Purdue’s strategy, leaving certain players wide open from outside. But Ohio State – which recorded is third-fewest points per possession (1.03) of the season – needed something inside. Anything beside the 3-point boom would have helped.
The Boilermakers, controlling the interior, had a 36-8 points-in-the-paint advantage and limited the Buckeyes to 1-of-5 on layups and 6-of-18 from 2-point range.
“I thought we did have some good looks, but it was a few too many (threes), for sure,” Holtmann said of the 35 triples attempted. “We tried to establish the paint a little bit better in the second half, but as physical as the game was and as physical as the game was called, we weren't able to do that. So that's my fault.”
The Buckeyes have only ever lost three of the 14 games in which they have made 14 3-pointers: Once at Clemson in 2004, once at LSU in double-overtime in 2005 and against Purdue on Tuesday night.
They made history on Tuesday. The wrong kind of history.