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No. 3-ranked Buckeyes avoid Boilermakers’ burn

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

Seven-hundred-twenty days.

That’s how long it has been since Feb. 17, 2010, when the Ohio State men’s basketball team last lost a home game coming into Tuesday’s matchup against the Boilermakers.

Keep counting.

Purdue gave OSU their toughest home test of the season but the Buckeyes downed Purdue, 87-84, and extended their home win streak to 39 games, thanks to 29 points from senior guard William Buford.

It didn’t come easy for the Buckeyes though. The Boilermakers battled back and forth with OSU, but 21 second-half points from Buford fueled OSU to a victory.

“Anytime you’ve got a scorer like Will, he’s due for games like this,” sophomore forward Jared Sullinger said. “That’s what he’s capable of doing.”

Both teams started off hot from the floor. With 8:20 remaining in the first half, each teams had connected on more than 70 percent of their shots.

Most of Purdue’s early offense came from junior forward D.J. Byrd, who made his first five shots from the field and totaled 14 points in the game’s first 12 minutes.

Purdue earned its first lead of the game with 7:39 remaining in the first half when Boilermaker junior guard Kelsey Barlow dunked right over Sullinger and gave Purdue the 25-24 advantage.

The Buckeyes quickly responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore guards Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft, which helped power a 12-0 OSU run.

But Purdue wouldn’t go away.

A driving layup by senior guard Lewis Jackson tied the game at 40 going into halftime.

Both teams shot more than 60 percent from the field and the 3-point line in the first half.

The hot shooting continued in the second half.

“They spread us out with five people that could shoot threes,” Craft said. “In the beginning we started getting a little selfish on defense and not wanting to help each other out as much.”

With Purdue leading, 56-54, sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas connected on a 3-pointer from the corner to give OSU a one-point lead with 13:18 remaining.

After giving up two easy buckets on the offensive end, Thomas grabbed an offensive rebound and converted the basket despite being fouled.

His free throw tied the game at 62.

The next three Buckeye possessions ended in trips to the free throw line for Sullinger. The Buckeye big man rattled in five of his six attempts and OSU led, 69-66, with 7:40 to go in the game.

With less than seven minutes to go, freshman guard Shannon Scott found Sullinger for a two-handed dunk to put the OSU lead back up to three, but Sullinger was called for a blocking foul on the other end.

It was Sullinger’s fourth of the game and sent him to the bench along with Craft, who also had four fouls.

Buford gave the team its biggest lift, though. Tied at 73, the team’s lone senior made two consecutive long jumpers and OSU took a 4-point lead with 3:12 remaining in the game.

The next time down the floor Buford hit a step-back three and extended the lead to seven.

Then with less than 40 seconds remaining, Buford came up with a loose ball and finished with a dunk on the other end that put it away for the Buckeyes.

“When I’m feeling it, it’s hard to stop me,” Buford said. “I saw a defender that couldn’t stop me and I tried to attack.”

He finished with 29 points and seven rebounds.

Byrd’s seventh 3-pointer of the game cut OSU’s lead back to four, but good free throw shooting for the Buckeyes to close the game sealed the win.

Byrd finished with 24 points.

Sullinger added 18 points and six rebounds for the Buckeyes.

The win was OSU’s closest home game of the season, but coach Thad Matta was happy with his team’s play down the stretch.

“I liked the fact that we made the plays that we had to make down the stretch to win the game,” Matta said. “Somehow someway we found ways to challenge shots. We found ways to get rebounds.”

The win improves the Buckeyes’ record to 21-3 on the year and 9-2 in the Big Ten.

OSU next takes on Michigan State Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. Tip is set for 6 p.m.

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