The peculiar journey of the 2015-16 Ohio State men’s basketball team continued on Thursday night.
Though it ultimately fell short of its upset bid on the road at No. 22 Purdue by a final score of 75-64, the neck-and-neck contest had to be considered a moral victory for the Buckeyes (12-8, 4-3), who had recently lost their last two road games by 25 and 35 points.
OSU led for over 20 minutes of the game, but the home team outscored the Buckeyes by 14 points in the second half to hold off the upset bid.
The Buckeyes outshot the Boilermakers (17-3, 5-2) by a margin of 43 percent to 39, but OSU failed to put up the points needed in the second half to grab the win.
OSU came out in the first half with a significant edge on both ends of the court. The Buckeyes outshot Purdue 52 percent to 35.3 percent in the opening 20 minutes, and made six of nine 3-pointers to Purdue’s zero of eight attempts.
Despite those sizable differences, the Buckeyes took just a three-point lead into the locker rooms at 36-33, knowing a larger lead was likely deserved.
Much of that close score was chalked up to the turnover margin, which was 8-4 in favor of Purdue. The Boilermakers notched 10 of their 33 points off those eight turnovers.
Redshirt sophomore guard Kam Williams was the star of the first half for the road team, notching 14 points on a very efficient 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from outside. Sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate and freshman guard A.J. Harris approached double-digit scoring in the first half with nine and seven points, respectively, but two starters — freshman guard JaQuan Lyle and sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop — each failed to record a point. Two more starters — junior forward Marc Loving and redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson — only hit one shot apiece.
7-foot center A.J Hammons, the unquestioned standout of the Purdue squad, lived up to that moniker in the opening half. The senior had 10 points, though he only managed one rebound. Freshman forward Caleb Swanigan picked up that slack with eight rebounds in the first half as the Boilermakers held a 19-16 advantage on the glass.
Things seemed to even out in the second half, though, with Purdue’s talent and experience eventually trumping OSU’s bid for its second road win of the year.
The Buckeyes shot just 34.5 percent in the second half and failed to connect on a single 3-pointer in five tries. The Boilermakers received contributions across the board, on the other hand, with eight players hitting at least one field goal in the second half.
When Purdue seemed to be in position to run away with the game with a six-point lead with four and a half minutes left, OSU showed some resiliency, cutting the deficit to as little as a single point at 62-61.
But the wheels came off from there. A Purdue jumper was followed by a turnover by Lyle in the backcourt, leading to two free throws. After a pair of missed jumpers by Loving, Purdue connected on a 3-pointer with a minute left, officially putting the game away.
After Williams’ big first half, he did not record a point after the intermission. Tate ended up leading the Buckeyes with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while Purdue received double-digit scoring from five players, led by Hammons’ 14 points.
As equal an enigma as the team as a whole, Lyle failed to hit a field goal on Thursday and finished with just two points, both from the free-throw line. After recent performances that included a 29-point game and a triple-double, the team continues to often come and go with its freshman point guard.
The loss dropped OSU coach Thad Matta’s squad to 2-5 away from Columbus, including 1-4 in official road games. Therefore, that should make the Buckeyes happy that their next game is set to come at home against Penn State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday at the Schottenstein Center.