Ohio State men’s basketball wasn’t running a sprint during its first-half scoring run that secured victory Saturday.
Rather, it gained separation between itself and Purdue with a steady jog.
The 8-0 scoring edge, Ohio State’s largest run by point difference in the contest, lasted for 7:23 of gametime and symbolized a primary factor in the win — staunch defense.
“That’s a toughness thing. If you’re gonna waiver on that end — because that’s tied to your offense — then you are one soft group,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “And we weren’t today.”
Purdue could only score 52 points in its 68-52 defeat, shooting a measly 35 percent from the field. It’s No. 1 scorer, sophomore forward Trevion Williams, finished with just four points.
Even worse for the Boilermakers was their 3-point shooting. They finished 4-for-20 behind the arc.
It wasn’t an issue with the game, either, because Ohio State made 45 percent of its attempts from downtown, including two during a second 8-0 run in the second half that brought its lead to 53-36.
Holtmann said relying on defense, rather than 3-point shooting, is a more consistent way to win basketball games, however.
“It won’t be sustainable. It never is,” Holtmann said. “There’s usually a significant drop off in percentages. You’ve gotta do it with your defense, and you’ve gotta have, like we talked about, a more balanced offensive attack.”
Putting aside its major drought, Purdue’s offense packed as much punch as a newborn koala bear in the opening 20 minutes.
The team’s shooting woes were especially prominent in this timeframe, with a 32 percent conversion rate from the field and a 22 percent mark from 3.
After the first half, the Boilermakers stood with just 20 points on the scoreboard.
“We knew it was gonna be a fight from start to finish,” Ohio State sophomore guard Luther Muhammad said. “We knew we’d have to come out and play hard, play together. Our coach was hitting on competing and executing, toughness.
Redshirt senior forward Evan Boudreaux started to break the stranglehold in the second half, collecting six points in a 91-second stretch surrounding the first media timeout.
Following a defensive rebound by a teammate, Boudreaux received a pass and ran out in transition, where he ran into Ohio State senior forward Andre Wesson. For what felt like minutes, the referees held their hands in the air to signal a foul without calling block or charge.
Finally, the furthest official from the play ran in to confirm the latter. Boudreaux picked up his fourth foul of the game, sending him to Purdue’s bench for a majority of the second half.
He still collected a game-high 17 points before fouling out with 2:10 to play.
Holtmann said Ohio State discussed facilitating offense through the post to remove him from the game sooner after he got into foul trouble, but that part of its attack was lacking due to Purdue’s defensive scheme. Ohio State players were quickly being double-teamed when they got the ball close to the basket.
“We talked about running something for Kyle [Young] to go at Boudreaux with his fourth, but they would’ve just come with the post trap,” Holtmann said. “And that was probably our worst offense of the day, is side post up during the post trap.”
The Buckeyes’ staunch defense paid dividends on the offensive end too, as they gathered 19 points off 16 turnovers.
Ohio State expanded its initial lead to 15-6 after redshirt junior guard CJ Walker swiped the ball from Purdue sophomore guard Sasha Stefanovich and went coast-to-coast for a layup.
“It was decision making,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “That’s the one thing when you get down. You’re fighting to get close. Obviously you want to fight to win the game, but if you can’t get close you’re not gonna put yourself in that position.”
Regardless, it was the defense that stole the show for Ohio State Saturday.
With one minute to play, redshirt senior guard Danny Hummer entered the game to a chorus of cheers.
It’s not often a walk-on sees the floor as a mark of dominance when his team has only scored 65 points.