The Ohio State men’s basketball team (20-0, 7-0) has managed to do what its football counterpart couldn’t: remain ranked No. 1 in the country for more than a week.
When the polls were released Monday, the Buckeyes sat atop both The Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ polls for the second consecutive week. Thanks in part to wins against Iowa and Illinois, as well as losses suffered by former unbeaten teams Kansas and Syracuse, the Buckeyes increased their lead in the polls, earning 63 of the 65 first-place votes in the AP poll and a unanimous 31 first-place votes in the Coaches’ poll.
The Buckeyes will defend their No. 1 ranking tonight when they welcome No. 12 Purdue (17-3, 6-1) for a 9 p.m. tipoff with first place in the Big Ten on the line.
Purdue is led by senior forward JaJuan Johnson, the Boilermakers’ top scorer this season with 20.5 points per game. OSU coach Thad Matta said his team is well prepared for the challenge Johnson presents.
“We’ve gone against a lot of different types of big players, big guys,” Matta said Monday. “He’s sort of a collection of them all.”
Besides Johnson, the Boilermakers have relied heavily on the play of senior guard E’Twaun Moore, the only other Purdue player averaging double digits in scoring, with 18.1 points per game.
“You’ve got one of the greatest combinations right now in basketball with Moore and Johnson,” Matta said. “I mean, those two guys are getting it done.”
Having seen players such as Johnson and Moore emerge for Purdue during his five seasons at OSU, senior guard David Lighty has come to expect tight games between the Buckeyes and Boilermakers.
“It’s been close games since day one, since everyone’s been there and since I’ve been here playing against them,” Lighty said. “Just us coming out and trying to execute and make plays down the stretch, I think, pretty much, that’s what it always comes down to.”