"We were all about defense at this point," said Sullinger after the game. "We knew E'Twaun (Moore) and JaJuan Johnson would get their shots. We just wanted to limit everyone else from getting good shots."
And that they did. Johnson shot a respectable 9-for-17 from the field, but Moore (4-for-13) and the rest of the Boilermakers (combined 11-for-33) struggled in both making shots and finding quality looks. Ohio State also controlled the boards, out-rebounding Purdue 42-28 with Jon Diebler's eight caroms leading the way. The Buckeyes had eight second-chance points to Purdue's zero in the first half, making it near impossible for the Boilermakers to hang around. Offensively Ohio State surpassed their efficiency percentage average of 119.3, finishing with a 126.1 thanks to 55.2% shooting from the field and 20 assists on 32 made baskets. Had Purdue not been able to score 15 points off of 12 turnovers, with 11 of those points coming in the second half, the margin of victory would have been closer to that highest-lead mark of 31. The Buckeyes were scary good at points on Tuesday night, and given the amount of experience on this team along with their unselfishness this group doesn't look like the type that will rest on their accolades.
"I think it's a big message to send, I think Jared is a great player but we have to put people around him that can make plays," remarked Aaron Craft, who finished with 11 points and six assists. "I think that's a big part of our team, that everyone can make baskets."
Where does this leave the Big Ten race? The race may be for second instead of first as the Buckeyes tightened their grip on the top spot with this victory. But Purdue should definitely be a part of the conversation for second if not the favorites to finish in that position. Minnesota lost guard Al Nolen to a foot injury and Michigan State announced Monday night that backup point guard Korie Lucious was suspended for the remainder of the season due to a violation of team rules. When a game of this magnitude results in a blowout the immediate impulse is to ask "what's wrong" with the defeated party. But while Purdue didn't show much in the way of toughness on the boards (along with their offensive issues) this one was more about what the Buckeyes did right. (quotes courtesy of Ohio State Athletics)
Other Notable Happenings
1. Syracuse may be in more trouble than many thought after last week.
Tuesday night proved to be a bad one for the Orange, who now have some issues that may have more to them instead of the fact that they were playing a pair of Top 10 teams last week. Jeremy Hazell announced his return to old form with 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting and as a team Seton Hall shot 54% from the field in an impressive 90-68 whipping of the home team at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse made a change to their starting lineup, shifting Rick Jackson into the middle of their 2-3 zone and starting James Southerland instead of freshman Fab Melo. But that didn't help much as Southerland was quiet for many of his 19 minutes, and Seton Hall continued to make perimeter shots (10-17 3PT). Surprisingly the Pirates also out-rebounded the Orange by a margin of 43-38, breaking even in points in the paint (36 apiece) and outscoring Syracuse 23-17 in fast break points. But while the Pirates deserve credit for playing as impressively as they did, the question of what's wrong with Syracuse must be asked.
Scoop Jardine, who was one of the best players during their undefeated start, has struggled in each of the last three games. And the freshman center platoon of Melo and Baye Moussa Keita hasn't become increasingly ineffective as the level of competition has elevated. Southerland hasn't produced in his expanded role of late, meaning that it may be time to give C.J. Fair a shot at more minutes. For Syracuse to never lead in a game against a team they took care of couple weeks ago is a serious red flag at this stage in the season. There's no doubt that Jim Boeheim and his staff can find the answers, but what about the players? They're the ones who need to not only find the solutions but put them to work.
2. Lipscomb adds some intrigue to the Atlantic Sun race.
After their win at East Tennessee State on Sunday night the Belmont Bruins were one win away from finishing a three-game road swing undefeated and essentially putting the first nail in the coffin in regards to the Atlantic Sun regular season race. But city rival Lipscomb, a team they'd blown out 88-52 just 13 days prior, had other ideas. Adnan Hodzic scored 26 points while Brandon Brown added 17 and 10 rebounds, and Jordan Burgason knocked down some crucial shots late in the second half to hand the Bruins their first league loss by the final score of 73-64. The problem for Belmont was that they went cold in the second half, shooting just 25.8% from the field and being outscored 42-24 by the Bisons. For the game Belmont shot just 39.7% from the field and made nine of thirty-one three pointers, and when you're not hitting shots you can't pressure the opposition or make up for 16 turnovers. What does Lipscomb's win mean to the A-Sun race? Besides giving ETSU a "second life" (the Bucs visit Belmont on February 17th) there really isn't a lot to hang onto. Belmont wasn't invincible, something that all involved knew going into the game. They'll be fine, and maybe the win could be a catalyst of sorts for a Lipscomb club that hasn't lived up to preseason favorite status thus far.
3. Virginia Tech loses the kind of game they can ill-afford to drop if they're to make the Big Dance.
As the college basketball season gets closer to its climax the focus becomes the resume, especially when discussing teams that aren't necessarily locks to make the NCAA Tournament. And while quality wins get the bulk of the attention bad losses are also part of the equation, and while Georgia Tech has played better basketball recently losing 72-57 to the Yellow Jackets would constitute a "bad loss" from a resume standpoint for Virginia Tech. Iman Shumpert posted the first triple-double in Georgia Tech history since Kenny Anderson did it in December of 1989 and Brian Oliver scored 28 points in the win. But it was their defense (or the Hokies' inability to make shots) that truly carried the night.
Virginia Tech shot 39.3% from the field and 1-for-11 from beyond the arc and with Malcolm Delaney scoring just eight points (eight turnovers as well) Seth Greenberg's club was in trouble. Jeff Allen (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Victor Davila (13 and seven) did the majority of the scoring, but the Hokies aren't winning games when Delaney and Erick Green combine to shoot 6-for-26 from the field. Losing games like this puts undue pressure on a team, especially one that's looking to grab that elusive NCAA bid. And with the ACC being what it is this season, Virginia Tech isn't going to have as many chances at standout wins as say a Marquette or St. John's in the Big East. With Miami and NC State next up the Hokies need to go 2-0 heading into their visit to Boston College on February 5th.
Top Three Games
1. (23) Florida 104, Georgia 91 (2OT)
An Erving Walker three pointer from about 30 feet out sent the game into a second overtime and Florida's offense eventually proved to be too much in Athens. The Gators scored the first nine points of the second overtime on their way to a deceptive 13-point victory. Walker and Kenny Boynton scored 24 points apiece while Vernon Macklin added 23 for the victors while Travis Leslie led the Bulldogs with 21. Trey Thompkins' follow just before the horn sent the game into overtime tied at 73.
2. Florida Gulf Coast 111, Stetson 103 (3OT)
It took fifteen extra minutes to do so but the extra work was worth it to Florida Gulf Coast, who won their second consecutive road game after winning just one of their prior eight road contests. Christophe Varidel led the victors with 29 points and Anthony Banks added 14 while Joel Naburgs and Tyshawn Patterson led the Hatters with 20 points apiece.
3. (6) Kansas 82, Colorado 78 The Jayhawks were able to hang on in Boulder despite heavy hearts, and rebounding was the key despite the absence of forward Thomas Robinson. Kansas out-rebounded Colorado 37-23 for the game, scoring 21 second-chance points to the Buffaloes' two. Josh Selby led four double-figure scorers for Kansas with 17 points while Colorado's Alec Burks led all scorers with 25.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Iman Shumpert (Georgia Tech) 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in the Yellow Jackets' 72-57 win over Virginia Tech in Atlanta.
2. G Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall) 28 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the Pirates' 90-68 whipping of (10) Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
3. F Troy Barnies (Maine) 20 points and 14 rebounds in the Black Bears' 64-50 win over New Hampshire. Maine is now 7-1 in America East play.