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Purdue does a lot of good, but still falls short

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For more on college basketball, follow Jonathan Batuello via Twitter at www.twitter.com/jcbatuello.

Boilers struggle from close range in league loss

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 - 6:31 am

WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue got a double-double from AJ Hammons. It had Ohio State shoot a dismal 4-for-22 from 3-point range. It got great looks at the rim repeatedly. It outrebounded the Buckeyes by nine. It even scored 69 points, tied for the most Ohio State has given up all year.

Yet all of that wasn't enough.

Purdue (10-4, 0-1) had plenty go right but still fell 78-69 to No. 3 Ohio State (14-0, 1-0) at Mackey Arena Tuesday afternoon.

Most telling about the good play coming up short comes from Hammons. Purdue made it a point to get him the ball from the tip as he scored the team's first four points and had an assist on its next basket. His start got Purdue an early lead.

Yet as the game progressed Hammons play brought stats with trouble. The big man would finish with 18 points and career-high 16 rebounds but also had four turnovers and was 6-for-16 shooting in the game.

“I think I played okay,” Hammons said. “Just too many turnovers for me and just not finishing at the basket really. I was 6-16, and that's just horrible.”

He wasn't the only Purdue player to struggle finishing at the rim in the game either. The Boilermakers guards routinely got inside the lane to within one or two feet of the basket to take a high-percentage shot. More often than not, they wouldn't convert, leaving points on

the floor.

This was especially prevalent late in the second half. Purdue tied the game at 46 with 13:57 remaining before Ohio State went on a 19-6 run to take a convincing lead. The Boilermakers missed multiple shots at the rim during the stretch.

“We had some opportunities that second half where we did really good things and came away with nothing,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “You go back and look at things and dissect it and watch the film, that's what we'll come away with, especially from an offensive standpoint. We were getting pretty good shots, we just didn't do a good job finishing at the rim.”

This stretch also showed the difference in experience between the two teams. The Buckeyes start two seniors and three juniors and played their best basketball after the game was tied.

Junior LaQuinton Ross completely took control as finished with a game-high 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds. After the game was tied at 46, Ross scored 15 points, which included scoring seven straight at one point.

“We talk about that with our guys that 'Hey, you've been through this before, you know what it takes,'” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “You know, we're up 44-41, they hit a three in transition, place is going crazy, and we come down hit a great shot and score. … I

thought down the stretch our vets were as good as they could be.”

It was this veteran play from Aaron Craft that proved especially critical and harmful to Purdue. Craft's stat line was loaded with seven points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and four steals. His ability to routinely get past his containment and into the lane and find the

open shooter allowed Ohio State to extend possessions and maintain its second half lead.

“What makes for good offense is Aaron Craft,” Painter said. “His ability to probe the defense and keep his dribble alive and be patient or whatever allows those other guys to do their thing and allows good spacing, and anytime you can have that kind of patience from your

point guard it just makes for good offense.”

Purdue just has to hope it can find that experience and ability to thrive under pressure as the season progresses. Despite many things going its way, it still missed an opportunity at an upset because it couldn't execute and finish when it mattered most.

“Just a lot of basic layups at the rim that we left out there tonight, and I feel like with those possessions we could have won the game,” Terone Johnson said. “We were there at the end like you said when it was 46-46, but we got two-to-three plays in a row where we were at the

rim and didn't get a bucket.”