With a record of 21-0, few people would accuse the Ohio State men’s basketball team of having poor communication on the court. Off the court, however, might be a different story.
After junior guard William Buford twisted his ankle in Saturday’s win against Illinois, OSU coach Thad Matta said he was unsure the starting point guard would be ready to play in the Buckeyes’ game against No. 12 Purdue on Tuesday. He asked Buford — via text message — how he was feeling.
“I texted him late (Monday) night and I said, ‘Shoot me straight, how do you feel?'” Matta said. “And he said, ‘I’m a little sore dot-dot-dot.'”
The next morning at OSU’s shootaround, Matta and Buford had an in-person conversation about text-messaging etiquette.
“We had a long conversation as he tried to explain what ‘dot-dot-dot’ means,” Matta said.
Thankfully for Matta, Buford said his ankle felt fine and that he’d be ready to play against the Boilermakers.
Buford showed no signs of strain from the injury, as he scored OSU’s first six points against Purdue on a pair of 3-pointers. Buford credited his quick start to the presence of OSU freshman forward Jared Sullinger.
“They were pretty good looks. We got the ball into Sully and they was doubling down,” Buford said. “We were making extra passes and I got good looks and I knocked them down.”
Buford’s quick start turned into a big night for the Toledo native. He scored a team-high 19 points on an efficient 6-for-8 shooting, including going 3-for-5 on 3-point attempts.
In the second half, it appeared that even fouling Buford couldn’t slow him down, as he connected on a 3-point shot while being fouled by Purdue guard Ryne Smith. Buford made the free throw for a four-point play.
Following the 87-64 Buckeye win, Purdue coach Matt Painter said Sullinger becomes even more dangerous when players like Buford are knocking down their shots.
“You can feed off of making shots. They were able to do that. They are a very good team,” Painter said. “When that snowball happens in the first half and you have that big guy (Sullinger), you can’t forget about him.”
OSU freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists, said Buford’s play showed the nation that the Buckeyes are more than just a one-man team.
“It’s definitely a big message. I mean, Jared is definitely a great player. Teams definitely have to decide how they’re going to guard him, but at the same time, we have the ability to put people around him and make plays,” Craft said. “That’s definitely a big key to our team that so many people can put the ball in the basket.”