Mackey Arena will be hopping on Sunday when the Purdue Boilermakers look to hold claim on the Big Ten title picture against the Ohio State Buckeyes. After beating Wisconsin on their home court, The Boilermakers look to defend their turf and remain undefeated there on Sunday, as the big bad Buckeyes roll into town. With a win, Purdue would sneak one game closer to contending for a Big Ten Championship. If they lose for the first time at home, Head Coach Matt Painter will be preaching to worry about the next big picture, the Big Ten Tournament.
This game will be a telling story of two teams. One that has been told they can’t win with their top player, but have dominated throughout the season. Another that has been told the big win on the road in the Big Ten is something you can’t obtain. It will also pit two of the best players in the conference against each other when Jared Sullinger and JuJuan Johnson battle it out. It’s going to be a battle position to position in what looks to be an old fashion dogfight to the last second of play.
Breaking Down the Boilermakers:
Despite losing Robbie Hummel at the beginning of the season, Big Ten basketball fans knew that eventually, when all the pieces came together, that Purdue was going to compete nationally. After being ranked #4 to start the season, then #14 after the news of Hummel broke, the Boilermakers went through a rough stretch.
At least that’s how the media would spin you.
After an early season upset from the Richmond Spiders (a pretty good basketball team), the Boilermakers began to found a rhythm, winning ten straight ballgames. With losses to Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin, this team has beat the teams that it was supposed to.
Earlier in the week they avenged one of their few losses against Wisconsin. In January, they got one back against the Golden Gophers who beat them fair and square on the road. Now, they will look to steal one from Ohio State, a team that completely man-handed them the first go around. Head Coach Matt Painter knows there isn’t a secret to winning against these Buckeyes. To win though, it has to start with competing.
We know about E’Twaun Moore and JuJuan Johnson’s abilities, but one player to watch on Sunday will be point guard Lewis Jackson. Going up against Jordan Taylor, the battle tested junior held the talented point guard to just 15 points, while scoring 18 himself. Not bad considering the first time Wisconsin and Purdue met, Jackson only scored one point. He will be the key to the game, in what I’ll call the Big Ten big three. Sure, almost every team depends on their key players to get points, but for Purdue, 57 of their 70 points against Wisconsin came from the hands of Jackson, Moore or Johnson.
Without a doubt, the Match Up that could make or break this game is the battle down low between Jared Sullinger and JuJuan Johnson. In Johnson’s last action against the Buckeyes, he was able to exploit the youth of Jared Sullinger, scoring 22 points and ripping down seven rebounds. On the offensive side of the glass though, Sullinger controlled things inside, set up numerous three point attempts and dropped 17 points of his own to go with 7 rebounds. It will be interesting if both teams focus on a game plan inside, but one thing is clear.
If the Boilermakers don’t defend the three ball, It’s going to be a long night.
The athleticism of E’Twaun Moore and Lewis Jackson will be put to the test by a solid array of three point shooters in William Buford, Aaron Craft and the Jon Diebler. Hell, the Boilermakers left the big man open on the perimeter in their last match-up and he hit the bottom of the cup from three. Despite going 6-9 from three point land in the first half in game number one of this series, it would make sense on the road for the Buckeyes to let up a little bit, control the clock and work things in the post before shooting from no man’s land.
Aaron Craft could benefit from this as he will probably see lots of minutes, and have his chance to shine. Despite only nine points in their last meeting, Craft did a good job of running the offense, penetrating, and driving to the hoop. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Boilermakers will be looking to get E’Twaun Moore more active early in the ballgame. In meeting number one, the Buckeyes held the offensive threat to 4-13 shooting and sixteen points. In his last three games, he is averaging 21 points a game. If he gets to the free throw line consistently and drops a few more open looks, that could be the trouble the Buckeyes can’t afford.
It is hard to see this game not going down to the wire. At home, with a much improved style of play and coming off a big game against Wisconsin, the Boilermakers are going to be there. This is a very competitive ball club that is looking to keep their dream of a Big Ten title alive.
On the flip side, the Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t going to walk into Mackey thinking they own this team. One game at a time until the madness and you can guarantee Thad Matta has preached the importance of this game. The goal is to make the end of February a one team race.
Ohio State has ability to do that Sunday afternoon.
Final Score: OSU 70 PUR 66