Tomorrow afternoon two teams will play a game that will go a long way toward deciding who will be the regular season Big Ten basketball champion. Ohio State travels to West Lafayette to take on the Purdue Boilermakers.
A lot is on the line. The Buckeyes are 12-1 in the conference and have a two-game lead over second-place Purdue. In their last outing, the Boilermakers won a huge home game against Wisconsin to take sole possession of second place. They now look to topple the Buckeyes and pull within one game of the Big Ten lead. They also will be looking for some revenge against Ohio State, which crushed Purdue 87-64 when the teams matched up earlier this season at Value City Arena.
The last game between these two teams is meaningless. It was one of those magical games where everything went right for Ohio State and everything went wrong for Purdue. (I have the game DVR’d and will probably not erase it for months; it is too much fun to watch.) The rematch undoubtedly will be different. Mackey Arena is one of the toughest venues in the Big Ten, and this year Purdue is undefeated at home against Big Ten opponents. In the first game between these teams, JaJuan Johnson played well and scored 22 points, but he was almost a one-man team. The Buckeyes managed to marginalize Purdue’s excellent shooting guard E’Twaun Moore and neutralize the Boilermakers’ waterbug-quick point guard, Lewis Jackson. Aaron Craft had a breakout game for the Buckeyes, playing hard-as-nails defense and blowing past the Boilermakers’ defense for some embarrassingly easy layups.
Craft and the Buckeyes won’t surprise Purdue this time. Matt Painter is one of the best coaches in the Big Ten and he will have the Boilermakers ready for this game. Moore and Jackson, in particular, will be pumped for a chance to redeem themselves against the Buckeyes. I expect another very difficult road test against a well-coached opponent that will be playing with a lot of talent and a lot of pride.