The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, December 16, 2020 9:20 pm

Purdue beats Ohio State, 67-60, in Big Ten opener

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – Trevion Williams had 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, Eric Hunter Jr. added 15 points and Purdue won its Big Ten season-opener, grabbing a 67-60 victory over previously-undefeatedNo. 20 Ohio State at Mackey Arena tonight. The Boilers improve to 5-2, while Ohio State is 5-1.

3 Takeaways

  • The Big Ten is going to be fun: We already knew this coming into the game, but this matchup confirmed it. Ohio State was considered a contender for the league crown, while Purdue was picked to finish in the middle of the pack and possibly lower with so many young players. That the Boilermakers were able to battle the Buckeyes and win despite not making a ton of 3-pointers or doing anything else particularly fluky suggests Purdue might be able to compete with the top teams in the conference. It's likely to be like this all season: even the best teams are going to be in for battles every night because there really are no weak teams in the league. The first five minutes of this game were played at a level of defensive intensity completely unmatched by anything we've seen this season and the young Boilermakers were the ones setting the pace. Get ready for a roller coaster of a season in the country's best conference.
  • Trevion Williams couldn't be stopped: Ohio State doesn't have anyone on its roster capable of guarding Williams one-on-one, so in the first half it sent a double team at him whenever he touched the ball in the low post. Williams made a mockery of that strategy by tossing a series of outstanding no-look passes to cutting guards for layups. In the second half, the Buckeyes instead decided to "float" a second defender in Williams' direction without actually double-teaming him. Purdue smelled blood and got the ball to Williams on five straight possessions, giving him a chance to bully his way to the rim, which he did, turning in back-to-back acrobatic finishes to push the Boilers' lead to 10 at 48-38. When he's playing as well as he did tonight, there's really no one who can hope of stopping him outside of elite rim protectors, of which there are few in modern-day college basketball. Against under-sized teams like Ohio State, he should be the focal point of Purdue's offense.
  • Purdue found a formula: The Boilermakers' performance tonight was a road map to how they can win games as the young players grow this season. They played a rock-solid defensive game overall, avoiding picking up too many fouls against the free-throw happy Buckeyes, they moved the ball well on offense, moved without the ball and let the dominance inside by their big men open up opportunities for shooters on the outside. They weren't red-hot from 3-point range, but they were good enough to win, finishing 6 for 20. That's a formula that has worked consistently for Purdue in the last half-decade, even as the roster has turned over. Without an elite scorer such as Carsen Edwards, the offense might go inside-out, rather than outside-in more often this season, but the same basic template can work and make Purdue an NCAA Tournament team in a rebuilding year. Of course, it has to be replicated over a 20-game Big Ten season. 

Player of the Game: Trevion Williams

Coming off a 30-point performance against Indiana State, Williams showed off his passing chops for much of the game against the Buckeyes. The preseason All-Big Ten big man finished with a career-high eight assists and also had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting and nine rebounds. He did turn the ball over four times, which Matt Painter will not be happy about, but he's a bona fide go-to scorer for Purdue in the post.

Tip-ins

The Boilermakers are 10-2 in their last 12 Big Ten openers. ... Ohio State and Purdue have met 180 times. The Buckeyes have won 91, making them the only Big Ten team with a winning record against the Boilermakers. ... The victory was Matt Painter's 50th against a ranked opponent since taking over at Purdue. ... Ohio State was without top scorer and rebounder E.J. Liddell, who came in averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. Liddell was out with a non-COVID illness. ... Purdue freshman guard Jaden Ivey returned from his foot injury, playing for the first time since the season-opener against Liberty. He scored four points on 2 for 7 from the field. ... Purdue won the rebounding battle 36-30 and held Ohio State to five second-chance points. ... Ohio State came in No. 3 in the country in free throws made per game with 21, but went just 10 for 13 at the foul line. The Boilermakers made 11 of their 13 free throw attempts. 

What's Next?

The Boilermakers are back in action Saturday for their final non-conference game of the regular season, a meeting with Notre Dame (2-2) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis that is part of the annual Crossroads Classic. The game will tip off at approximately 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2, following the Indiana-Butler game. The Irish are coming off a 64-63 win over Kentucky and their losses are to Ohio State and Michigan State. They are facing No. 21 Duke tonight.

dsinn@jg.net


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