Ohio State did not have much help from Kaleb Wesson when the Buckeyes played Purdue on Jan. 23. The sophomore forward scored six points, making 1-of-4 from the field with three rebounds before being relegated to the bench with five fouls after 16 minutes of play.
The Buckeyes will not have that option when they play the Boilermakers for the final time in the regular season on Sunday.
Ohio State announced Friday that Wesson has been suspended for a violation of athletic department policy. The timetable for the suspension was not disclosed, but head coach Chris Holtmann said the Buckeyes’ leading scorer and rebounder will return this season.
Holtmann said that Saturday’s game against Purdue became even more difficult without the ability to use Wesson.
“It’s a great challenge anyway,” Holtmann said. “Obviously it’s a great challenge when you don’t have a player like Kaleb, who has really had a tremendous season.”
Ohio State (18-10, 8-9 Big Ten)
G — C.J. Jackson — Senior, 12.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
G — Keyshawn Woods — Redshirt senior, 6.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.5 apg
G — Luther Muhammad — Freshman, 8.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.9 apg
F — Justin Ahrens — Freshman, 3.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.3 apg
F — Andre Wesson — Junior, 8.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 apg
Purdue (21-7, 14-3 Big Ten)
G — Carsen Edwards — Junior, 23.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg
G — Ryan Cline — Senior, 11.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.3 apg
G — Nojel Eastern — Sophomore, 7.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 apg
F — Grady Eifert — Senior, 5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 apg
C — Matt Haarms — Sophomore, 8.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.1 apg
Ohio State had a chance to succeed in its previous game against the Boilermakers. After trailing by as many as 14 in the second half, sophomore guard Musa Jallow hit a 3 with 10:18 left in the game, cutting the Buckeyes’ deficit to two points.
Redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods remembers much of that success coming from the small-ball looks Ohio State gave Purdue, saying the defense stepped up, leading to successful trips on the offensive end.
Woods said this was something that can be replicated.
“We are going to fight,” Woods said. “We prefer to have Kaleb. We would much rather have our big fella, but if we have to play small ball, that’s what we are going to do.”
However, size was a factor against Purdue in their first matchup. Facing a team that is No. 3 in the Big Ten in rebound margin, the Boilermakers out-rebounded Ohio State 30 to 23 on Jan. 23 with senior forward Grady Eifert leading the team with six.
Without Wesson in the middle, who the head coach describes as the only player that had the positional size and length on Ohio State’s roster, Holtmann said he still does not want to play 40 minutes of small ball.
But he said, without what many refer to as the anchor of the Ohio State offense, he expects the Boilermakers to press out more, unlike what Iowa did on Tuesday when the Buckeyes secured their first ranked win of the season.
Really, Holtmann does not know what his team is going to look like with Wesson, who has not missed a game this season, off the court.
“There are a lot of dynamics that are hard to project when you pull a guy out of your lineup like that,” Holtmann said.
When the Buckeyes faced the Boilermakers in January, Purdue junior guard Carsen Edwards continued his offensive success, leading the team with 27 points on 6-for-16 shooting and making 11-of-13 from the foul line.
Despite Edwards coming in averaging 23.4 points per game, which leads the Big Ten and is No. 11 in the country, Holtmann said he is more worried about the team as a whole.
“I think they get unfairly judged like it’s Carsen Edwards and everybody else, but they have some really, really good players around those guys that I think command a lot of attention,” Holtmann said.
Purdue comes into Saturday’s game against Ohio State winners of 12 of its past 13 games, carrying a four-game win streak.
But the Buckeyes’ 20-point win against No. 22 Iowa gave Woods the blueprint of what it will take to be successful against the Boilermakers, even without one of their primary contributors.
“We are not finished. We still got three games left in our regular season and we need to bring that same energy, that same effort that we had at Iowa and bring it to Purdue and Northwestern and Wisconsin,” Woods said. “We are not finished as all. We still got work to do.”
Ohio State will take on No. 14 Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana at 2 p.m. Saturday.