With five victories in its last six games, No. 16 Ohio State (21-6, 10-3 Big Ten) looks to capture another win against Purdue 1 p.m. Sunday at the Schottenstein Center. This will be the two teams’ first matchup since last season when Purdue ended the Buckeyes’ run in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
The Boilermakers (17-10, 8-5 Big Ten) don’t have a dazzling record, but certain wins stand out. Four of their victores have come against ranked teams, and Ohio State has lost to three of those teams.
With two games left this season, this game has two added layers of significance: a chance at redemption for Ohio State and Senior Day for five players, including Big Ten all-time leading scorer Kelsey Mitchell.
Mitchell shot a woeful 3-of-22 in the two teams’ previous meeting. She said Senior Day takes a backseat because of the Buckeyes’ opponent.
“It has nothing for me, it has nothing to do with senior night, it has to do with all about the fact that we lost to Purdue last year,” Mitchell said. “[We were] at a point where we had a chance to get to the championship in the Big Ten Tournament and we lost to Purdue.”
Mitchell was even surprised to find out Purdue upset Maryland, which holds a 22-4 record and is the tenth-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25.
“Wow, really? They’re good, I’ve always thought they were good. We have really good teams in the Big Ten, especially teams that sneak up on you, when you feel like things are going so well,” Mitchell said. “It makes it even more of a game that we got to focus on. As a leader, as a point guard, you got to focus on.”
Purdue is currently second in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 62 points per game. On the other hand, Ohio State ranks first in scoring with 85.5 points per game. Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said the Purdue defense will cause a challenge for his usually prolific-scoring offense.
“They play a great zone, they don’t give you anything easy, they really try and keep ball away from the basket and make you score from the perimeter,” he said. “So if you’re a little off there they can be really tough on you. They’re very discipline and deliberant on offense.”
The Boilermakers currently have three players who average more than 10 points and another averaging 9.7. The focus will have to be on forward Ae’Rianna Harris, who is third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.4 points per game while shooting 75 percent from the court. She also brings in 8.7 rebounds per game along with 3.1 blocks.
These last two games are important for Ohio State and the Big Ten tournament. With some help down the stretch, it has a chance to come out and place with the first seed. While it isn’t a very likely scenario, with all the amount of upsets this season, it isn’t too far of a stretch.
Sunday’s game comes with some extra emotion attached to it, for it is the team’s senior day.
Mitchell has set numerous records not only in the Big Ten, but in all divisions of college. As the final chapter of her impressive collegiate career enters its final pages, Mitchell said senior day still “means a lot.”
“You don’t get a chance to play here no more in regards to regular season games,” Mitchell said. “You don’t get a chance to play on the Ohio State court no more. Everything you’ve been through has finally come to an end in regards to the four years. I don’t know when it’s actually gonna hit me. I don’t know what’s actually gonna happen or how i’m gonna feel about it, but I’m gonna enjoy every moment, so we’ll see.”
Since becoming Ohio State’s head coach, this class essentially became the first which he developed and coached as freshmen through seniors.
“The thing i’ve enjoyed most is they’re great kids, I’ve enjoyed watching them grow and develop,” McGuff said. “And thinking about what they have each of them, because they’re going to be incredibly successful on and off the court. That’s the thing I’ve probably enjoyed the most about them.”