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Expected loss at Purdue highlights OSU problems

By STEPHEN MEANS • Mar 3, 2019 at 3:08 PM

COLUMBUS — To no one’s surprise, Ohio State lost to Purdue on the road without leading scorer Kaleb Wesson.

But what was surprising was how lopsided the Boilermakers’ 86-51 romp was. Purdue’s offense clicked while Ohio State’s looked helpless from the opening tip.

The No. 14-ranked Boilermakers knocked down eight threes in the first half, and Carsen Edwards put up 19 points. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes (18-11, 8-10) only made six shots in the first 20 minutes, often seeming totally unable to create quality opportunities.

OSU coach Chris Holtmann found himself desperately looking for answers in the second half, electing to start walk-on Joey Lane, who was scoreless in six minutes without a shot attempt. Edwards finished with 25 points and Purdue continued to drive up its lead.

Despite the 35-point loss, it shouldn’t do too much damage to Ohio State’s tournament chances. The win over No. 22 Iowa should be enough, as long as OSU wins at Northwestern (12-16, 3-14) on Wednesday. But the suspended Kaleb Wesson should be motivated to get back on the court as soon as possible.

This team struggled to find any offense, often passing up good shots for contested ones. Jaedon LeDee scored a career-high 16 points, but was the only player to score in double figures. It was obvious that the Buckeyes need Wesson, but it wasn’t until they were without him that they found out how much.

His 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game aren’t eye-popping numbers. But his impact goes past the statistics. His value is in the amount of attention he draws from defenses. Justin Ahrens scored a career-high 29 points against the Hawkeyes last week because he was wide open. Wesson’s ability to consistently draw two defenders led to Ahrens’ monster night. Without that presence, Ahrens shot once in 20 minutes Saturday.

The Buckeyes’ lack of offense outside of Wesson isn’t a new phenomenon. But Purdue was able to exploit just how lost they are without him. The only accomplishment was that they were able to keep turnovers in single digits (9).

The three-man playmaking group of C.J. Jackson, Luther Muhammad and Keyshawn Woods combined for 13 points while missing 12 of 16 shots. Andre Wesson scored just six points and racked up four fouls. The only solid perimeter player was Duane Washington Jr. with nine points.

Meanwhile, Purdue made 11 of 21 attempts beyond the arc and seemed comfortable in finding any shots it wanted. Trevion Williams, who had missed the only two threes he’s taken all season, got one to go.

Ohio State (18-11, 8-10 Big Ten) had to play without the one player other teams prepare for. Purdue took sole possession of the Big Ten lead unconcerned about any other Buckeye. The result tied the most lopsided loss in Chris Holtmann’s career.

Wesson’s suspension doesn’t have an end date right now. The Northwestern game should be competitive even without him — but it’s losable.

An OSU lineup without Wesson for the home finale against Wisconsin next weekend? There’s nothing that’s going to make a fan optimistic about that one.