No. 14 Ohio State (20-5, 11-1 Big Ten) will face No. 3 Purdue (23-2, 12-0 Big Ten) in its biggest road game of the season so far at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night in Mackey Arena.
The Boilermakers are currently leading the conference, one spot ahead of Ohio State, with an unblemished 12-0 Big Ten record. A Purdue win would give the Boilermakers a two-game lead over the Buckeyes in the conference, while an Ohio State win would put the Buckeyes in a tie for first with the tie-breaking head-to-head matchup giving Ohio State the leg up.
The Boilermakers have won their past 19 games and are coming off a win in which they held off Rutgers for a 78-76 road win. The Buckeyes most recently defeated Illinois at home, 75-67.
Projected Starters for Purdue
C — Isaac Haas — Senior, 7-foot-2, 290 lbs., 14.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.3 apg
F — Vincent Edwards — Senior, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs., 15.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.1 apg
G — Dakota Mathias — Senior, 6-foot-4, 200 lbs., 12.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.4 apg
G — Carsen Edwards — Sophomore, 6-foot-1, 200 lbs., 16.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.0 apg
G — P.J. Thompson — Senior, 5-foot-10, 185 lbs., 8.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.0 apg
Projected Starters for Ohio State
F — Kaleb Wesson — Freshman, 6-foot-9, 275 lbs., 11.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.1 apg
F — Keita Bates-Diop — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs., 20.2 ppg 8.9 rpg, 1.7 apg
F— Andre Wesson — Sophomore, 6-foot-6, 220 lbs., 2.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.0 apg
F — Jae’Sean Tate — Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., 12.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.8 apg
G — C.J. Jackson — Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., 12.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.3 apg
Purdue leads the Big Ten in both scoring offense, averaging 84 points per game, and 3-point field goals made, averaging 10 per game. The Buckeyes rank sixth in the league in 3-point defense.
Purdue presents a challenge to the Buckeyes defensively because of its size and the combination of both the long-range and interior offensive threats from all five starters.
“They have a lot of size down low. They’re a very smart team, veteran team,” senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “I like their team composure. I don’t think there’s a lot of teams like that, the way they show how together they are. [Wednesday] we’re going to have to be smart about the shot selection we take and driving in with such length in the post.”
But senior center Isaac Haas is one player in particular who will be difficult for the Buckeyes to defend because of his size. In the past four games, the 7-foot-2 Haas averaged 19.3 points and six rebounds per game, while shooting 60 percent from the field. Redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said it will require a team effort to attempt to defend him.
Another challenge for the Buckeyes is the road environment at Purdue. Ohio State is facing a tough Big Ten road environment for one of the first times this season, with a lot at stake.
“I’m anxious to see how we perform in a very hostile environment against an elite team,” Holtmann said. “Anxious to see what we can take from that good and bad. There will be a lot of good in stuff and then a lot that we will have to continue to work on.”
Holtmann compared the game preparation to the challenge of when the Buckeyes faced then-No. 1 Michigan State in December. There are some key differences, but the Buckeyes are now preparing for a battle as an underdog against a potential national championship contender.
“It’s been a while since we were the underdogs and I think that’s a good thing for us. I actually enjoy being the underdog,” Tate said. “It’s been so long and we kind of got used to it. We are motivated and excited for the opportunity.”
Kam Williams will not travel with team
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said Tuesday redshirt senior guard Kam Williams will not travel with the team to West Lafayette, Indiana, but will have his status re-evaluated Thursday. Sophomore forward Andre Wesson started in place of Williams against Illinois.
“[Williams has] got class he needs to attend to tomorrow,” Holtmann said. “So he’ll be here in Columbus, finishing up work. He’s got a project and going to class.”
Holtmann added he believes Williams has “accepted responsibility” and that the team expects him return to the starting lineup in “short order.”