COLUMBUS, Ohio – Purdue's goal coming into this game was to bring energy on the defensive end, a task that has been difficult on the road for the Boilers much of the season, except against Indiana a week ago. The Boilermakers accomplished that goal, forcing a spate of Buckeyes turnovers in the early going and getting into numerous passing lanes on the perimeter. Unfortunately for them, Ohio State jumped out to an early lead anyway with some hot shooting from the outside.
Ohio State guard C.J. Walker was terrific in the early going, flying all over the court, and when he hit a 3-pointer and followed it with a steal and a fastbreak layup, the Buckeyes went in front 15-6. It wasn't the totally disastrous start the Boilermakers had against Illinois and Maryland, but it certainly wasn't what they wanted and in a defensive game like the one taking place today, a nine-point deficit is a lot to overcome. A problem for Purdue early was its own struggles holding on to the ball. The Boilers turned the ball over four times in the first eight minutes (Ohio State gave it away five times in the same span and had 10 turnovers in the first half) and two of those Purdue giveaways came on post feeds that were ill-advised and ill-timed.
After Ohio State's early string of 3-pointers, the Purdue defensive pressure began to pay dividends. The Buckeyes went without a basket for more than six minutes and struggled to even get good shots. Big man Kaleb Wesson, Purdue's top priority on defense, did not get a post touch during the entire stretch, which meant the Boilermakers' defensive game plan was working the way it was intended. Wesson took only one shot in the first half as Purdue sent a second player at him most of the times he did touch the ball, although that opened passing lanes and created shots for Ohio State's perimeter players. The good news for Purdue is that Wesson, who has struggled with foul trouble most of his career, has two fouls at halftime. If he picks up a third early in the second half, he might have to exit the game for a significant stretch.
Purdue was unable to close the gap during Ohio State's long field drought, mostly because it had its own problems finding good looks at the rim. There was a lot of settling for long jump shots for the Boilers in the first half. Worse, Purdue's possessions were almost always one and done. The Boilermakers grabbed only one offensive rebound in the first half and the Buckeyes held a 17-10 advantage in overall rebounds. In addition, Purdue has struggled to get the ball inside beyond a couple post touches early for Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams and that has led to the Boilers taking just two free throws in the first half. Purdue has been successful the few times it has gotten the ball in the paint, but Ohio State's defense has mostly precluded that from happening and with the Boilers' outside shots not falling for most of the half, there aren't many ways for Purdue to score points.
Ultimately, the difference so far is that Ohio State has made some of its open jumpers, while the Boilermakers have missed almost all of theirs. The Buckeyes are shooting 48% at halftime (including 5 for 10 from 3-point range), while the Boilers are at 32% (and 2 for 9 from deep). Purdue's defense has been good enough to win today, but Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the country and is showing why right now. If shots start falling for the Boilers, this game could change quickly, but it's tough to pin a team's hopes on that on the road.