Coming into the game, Purdue coach Matt Painter knew that in order for the Boilermakers to beat the No. 1 Ohio State men’s basketball team they were going to have to match the Buckeyes’ intensity for all 40 minutes. Early on, however, that hope was lost.
“They stole our spirit,” Painter said.
In a game that was out of hand by halftime, the still-undefeated Buckeyes (21-0, 8-0 Big Ten) destroyed the Boilermakers on Tuesday night, 87-64, at the Schottenstein Center.
“I think this is the best game we’ve played, period,” freshman forward Jared Sullinger said. “We had good defense, and on top of that we executed our offense, and we’ve never had a game like that.”
Last season, when Purdue played at OSU, the Boilermakers jumped out to a big early lead before holding onto a three-point win. Former Buckeye Evan Turner suggested after that game that perhaps some of his teammates weren’t mentally prepared to play on such a big stage.
A year later, the Buckeyes came out firing all cylinders. OSU shot 56 percent from the field and made six of its nine 3-point attempts in the first half. After leading by as many as 22 points in the first 20 minutes, OSU took a 46-26 lead to the break.
Despite Purdue senior forward-center JaJuan Johnson’s eight points in the next five minutes, the Buckeyes increased their lead early in the second half. Johnson — whose 22 points and seven rebounds were the night’s lone bright spot for the Boilermakers — showed why his matchup with Sullinger was the subject of much anticipation leading into the game.
“He’s a great player. I mean, he hit a lot of tough shots today,” Sullinger said. “We knew going in he was going to hit a lot of those shots, so we just tried our hardest to contain him. I think I did pretty good, but at the same time he’s a great player.”
Sullinger scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and though he shared a lot of the defensive duties against Johnson, he consistently got the better of the Boilermaker on the offensive end.
Junior guard William Buford added a team-high 19 points, and freshman point guard Aaron Craft had 11 points, six rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes off the bench. The Buckeyes finished shooting 55 percent from the field, and their 87 points were the most the Boilermakers have given up since allowing 89 to Indiana State in 2006.
“I liked our mental approach we had coming into the game,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “So much started with our defense, and I think that was able to generate some pretty good offense for us.”
The Buckeyes’ 21-0 start is the third best in school history and the best under Matta. If there was anyone questioning whether this team was worthy of its No. 1 ranking, Sullinger said tonight’s performance set the record straight.
“I think this was a loud answer to those questions,” he said.
OSU plays at 6 p.m. Saturday at Northwestern.