(3) Ohio State (13-0) at Purdue (10-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 31, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackey Arena (14,846) -- West Lafayette, Indiana. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: OSU 11-0, PU 8-0. Away Record: OSU 1-0, PU 1-0. Neutral Record: OSU 1-0, PU 1-3. Conference Record: OSU 0-0, PU 0-0. Series Record: Purdue leads, 83-79.
GAME NOTES: The third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes recently completed a perfect non-conference slate, and they will open Big Ten Conference play on Tuesday afternoon against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena.
Ohio State is 13-0 and is preparing to kick off its 102nd season of Big Ten competition in this, only its second true road game of the campaign. The Buckeyes haven't played what anyone would consider a daunting schedule to this point, with its best wins coming against Marquette, Maryland and Notre Dame. The team's most recent outing took place last Friday, with the visiting ULM Warhawks proving to be no match in what turned out to be a 71-31 final.
While not to the extent as its counterpart today, Purdue has enjoyed its own level of success this season, staking claim to a 10-3 record, which includes an 8-0 mark in front of the hometown faithful. The Boilermakers' three losses have come against Oklahoma State and Washington State on back-to-back days as part of the Old Spice Classic in late November, and to Butler on Dec. 14. They too haven't beaten many teams of note, with the possible exceptions of Boston College and West Virginia.
Purdue owns an 83-79 lead in the all-time series with Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have won the last three meetings, and 13 of the last 18 overall.
Strong defense has been Ohio State's calling card this season, as the team ranks among the national leaders in points allowed at just 54.0 per game. Opponents have been unable to find their shooting stroke, hitting a mere 36.4 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a dismal 24.3 percent showing from 3-point range. Those same foes are being outrebounded (-3-3) and goaded into more turnovers (15.5 per game) than the Buckeyes themselves commit (10.9 tpg). Offensively, coach Thad Matta's club has certainly done enough to help it maintain a significant scoring margin (+20.8), as Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and LaQuinton Ross lead the way with 13.4 and 12.9 ppg, respectively. Amir Williams adds 9.9 ppg while spearheading the team's effort on the glass with 7.2 rpg, and Aaron Craft chips in 9.5 ppg as a complement to his role as OSU's primary playmaker (4.6 apg).
Smith, Jr. scored 17 points and grabbed seven boards, while Ross logged a double-double consisting of 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Buckeyes to their easy win over ULM last time out. Amedeo Della Valle tacked on 14 points off the bench, but it was Ohio State's stifling defensive effort that won the game, as the Warhawks shot just 18.5 percent from the floor (10-of-54), which included a poor 3-of-18 showing from downtown, while also committing 17 turnovers.
Boasting six players who average at least 6.4 ppg, including two in double figures, Purdue can score with Ohio State, but where the teams differ is at the other end of the court as the Boilermakers permit an average of 70.0 ppg. Still, their opponents are shooting only 40.5 percent from the field, while being guilty of 14 turnovers per outing. Terone and Ronnie Johnson are netting 14.0 and 10.8 ppg, respectively, and they have combined for 76 of the team's 178 assists on the season. Bryson Scott is close to joining the double-digit scorers' club, as his 9.8 ppg come mostly on the back of his solid showing at the free-throw line (44-of-61, .721).
Terone Johnson hit for 20 points, while Ronnie added 14 and Basil Smotherman tallied 11, all of which were needed in Purdue's 73-70 win at West Virginia on Dec. 22. The Boilermakers played exceptional defense in the win, limiting the Mountaineers to 36.9 percent field goal efficiency, which included a low 16.7 percent (3-of-18) effort from 3-point land. Coach Matt Painter's squad won the rebounding battle, 45-38, while tallying 25 bench points compared to only 4 for WVU.
Ohio State is clearly the better team in this matchup, but that's not to say Purdue won't be keep it close. In the end, expect the Buckeyes to remain undefeated, as they kick off conference play with a solid road win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 74, Purdue 65
12/31 10:32:59 ET