Through 17 games, it was clear who Ohio State was going to work through down the stretch.
Sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson was leading the Buckeyes in scoring by 2.8 points and averaging two more rebounds per game than anyone else on the team.
But in Wednesday’s 79-67 loss to Purdue, Wesson found himself in foul trouble, limiting his play time to 16 minutes, and limiting his production to six points and three rebounds.
Ohio State was in need of a different player to step up. It turned out the team didn’t even need to look for a different last name to do so.
Kaleb’s older brother, junior forward Andre Wesson, stepped up and led the Buckeyes with 22 points, 15 of which came in the second half.
Andre Wesson hit on 9-of-10 shots on the night, going a perfect 9-of-9 to start the game, including hitting four-of-five shots from deep.
He said his career-best performance came from a sense of urgency after going on the longest losing streak since head coach Chris Holtmann took over the team.
“This is one that we really needed,” Andre Wesson said. “When you lose four straight, you’re desperate, you need it, so that’s what you saw.”
With the first half a second away from ending, Andre Wesson’s game looked to be the norm for him.
Ohio State was down 13, and the junior forward had four points and two rebounds, closer to his season averages of 7.6 points and 4.3 boards per game than the stats with which he finished.
But he began his big night on a shot from behind half court that banked its way into the hoop as time expired to bring the Buckeyes to within 10.
Andre Wesson followed that up by scoring six of Ohio State’s first eight points in the second half, hitting jump shot to bring the Buckeyes within four with less than seven minutes left in the game.
Purdue outscored Ohio State 12-4 following his final basket.
Andre Wesson’s 22 points was a career high, nine points more than any other game he has played in his collegiate career. His four 3s, nine field goals and 37 minutes played were also all career highs for the No. 4 leading scorer for the Buckeyes this season.
“I thought Andre’s spirit and competitiveness really carried this group,” Holtmann said. “That was good to see.”
The opportunity for Andre Wesson to continue stepping up in the way he did against the Boilermakers comes at the foul trouble of his brother.
Kaleb Wesson is tied for No. 61 in the NCAA with 61 personal fouls this season. He has earned at least three fouls in his past eight games, and at least four in seven of the past eight.
As Ohio State’s leading scorer, Kaleb Wesson played four minutes in the second half before fouling out.
“He just has to stay in it,” Andre Wesson said. “You’re gonna get bad calls some nights, or things aren’t gonna go your way, so you just gotta stay in it.”
Kaleb Wesson will continue to be the guy for Ohio State down the stretch, pending on his ability to be available down the stretch due to fouls.
But Holtmann saw something he can use from the loss to Purdue.
In the defeat, he found a new Andre Wesson that had not yet been seen through three years at the program, something brought to life through a small-ball lineup that didn’t have Kaleb Wesson on the floor.
“I think playing down a little bit gave him a little bit more open floor, a little more movement, gave him an advantage there, and he did a good job taking advantage of it and driving it and shooting it,” Holtmann said. “He’s put in work, and I liked the spacing that the smaller group provided.”