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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 07, 2018 9:50 pm

Halftime thoughts: Purdue 31, Ohio State 29

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue had a chance to get out to a huge lead in this game. The defense was stifling early, forcing seven straight Ohio State misses to open the game, including three from leading Big Ten scorer Keita Bates-Diop. When the Boilers forced a 30-second violation on the Buckeyes' first possession, the crowd absolutely exploded and Ohio State was clearly rattled.

The Boilermakers didn't take advantage, though. They raced to a 5-0 lead but then missed seven of eight shots from the field. Ohio State quickly got back into the game with an 8-0 run and the opportunity was gone. Both teams clearly had some big-game jitters as they turned the ball over repeatedly.

Once those jitters wore off a bit, one fact became clear: Ohio State has no one to guard Isaac Haas. Kaleb Wesson was game to try, but the Boilers made a concerted effort to get the ball into the big man and he delivered. After scoring seven points against Rutgers, the senior had seven points in the first 8:20 of tonight's game, all coming from close to the rim. He finished with 16 in the half. One fan close to the press area simply screamed "Haas!" at the top of his lungs every time Purdue took possession of the ball.

With more than five minutes left in the half, Wesson picked up his third foul. The fact that he was on the floor with two is a sign that coach Chris Holtmann doesn't think anyone else can guard Haas. I'm wondering how long Holtmann will keep Wesson on the bench in the second half.

Meanwhile, if the Purdue game plan was to shut down Keita Bates-Diop, it executed to perfection most of the half. The 20-point-per game scorer had just eight points on 4 of 9 shooting from the field. The Boiler defense in general was excellent. Everything looked difficult for the Buckeyes and they missed several forced shots by wide margins.

Purdue didn't shoot particularly well, either, however, hitting just two 3-pointers and none until close to the seven-minute mark. The poor shooting made for a low-scoring half, but Purdue leads anyway. This team is so good on both offense and defense, it's not afraid of playing any style. If the Boilers start hitting outside shots (as Carsen Edwards did near the end of the half), this game could get away from the Buckeyes.

dsinn@jg.net