Junior forward LaQuinton Ross scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to lead fifth-seed Ohio State to a 63-61 win over No. 12-seed Purdue in the first round of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Thursday afternoon.
Senior guard Aaron Craft, not wanting to go home just yet, had 16 points, five assists and three steals for the Buckeyes.
In a game that saw 10 ties and 15 lead changes, Ohio State went ahead for good with 5:23 left to play after junior center Amir Williams converted one of his two free throw attempts, but it was a nail-biter the rest of the way.
With 3:25 to go, the Buckeyes went up 59-54 following an outrageous alley-oop dunk from junior forward Sam Thompson, but after Craft’s three-pointer barely glanced the front of the rim, Purdue scored four-straight points as Kendall Stephens made two free throws and Ronnie Johnson scored on a layup with 1:36 remaining to make it a one-point contest.
There wasn’t any scoring until there was 28 ticks on the clock when senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. was going for an offensive rebound and was fouled by Errick Peck. Smith Jr.’s two charity-stripe tosses made the score 59-56 in favor of the good guys.
With 18.1 seconds left, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons scored on a bucket in the paint even though he clearly moved his pivot foot and no traveling call was whistled. Four seconds later, Craft was fouled, but he made just 1-of-2 from the foul line to put Ohio State up 62-60.
Down two with less than 10 seconds left, Ronnie Johnson tried to hand the ball to his brother outside the three-point line, but it was fumbled and Smith Jr. came up with the steal. Though it looked like Smith Jr. had a clear path to the basket, but he pulled up, was fouled, and made 1-of-2 from the stripe to put the Buckeyes up three.
Not wanting to allow Purdue to get off a game-tying three-pointer, Ronnie Johnson was fouled in the backcourt. He made his first free throw, but launched a line drive for the second attempt that was deflected out of bounds by Smith Jr. with 1.2 seconds left. Terone Johnson then hit the side of the iron on a triple from the left wing and Ohio State held on for the win.
The Buckeyes were 23-of-64 (35.9%) from the field, a putrid 1-of-14 (7.1%) from beyond the arc, and a not-very-good 16-of-25 (64.0%) from the foul line. The Boilers shot 41.4 percent (24-58) from the floor, 20.0 percent (2-10) from three-point range, and 68.8 percent (11-16) from the charity-stripe.
Ohio State did outrebound Purdue, 43-39, though the Buckeyes held a 27-12 rebounding edge at halftime.
Up next, Ohio State takes on No. 4-seed Nebraska, Friday afternoon. Tip-off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ESPN.