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Up next for Purdue: Today vs. Ohio State

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Boilers seek Big Ten tourney upset

Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 9:49 am

Up next for Purdue: Today vs. Ohio State

When: 2:30 p.m.

Where: Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse

On the air: BTN

Records: Purdue (15-16), Ohio State (23-8)

Expected starters for the Boilers: Ronnie Johnson – 6-0 sophomore guard, Terone Johnson – 6-4 senior guard, Rapheal Davis -- 6-4 sophomore guard, Kendall Stephens – 6-6 freshman forward, A.J. Hammons – 7-foot sophomore center.

Update: Purdue needs two wins to get back into the NIT discussion. That means beating Ohio State today and Nebraska on Friday. The Boilers were 1-3 against those teams this season.Yes, they can make the NCAA tourney by winning four games in four days, but that's as likely as the Cubs winning the 2014 World Series. They've lost four of their last five Big Ten tourney games.

Ohio State has won 23 of the last 29 meetings with Purdue, most of the blowout variety. Given the Buckeyes are 8.5-point favorites, that dominance is unlikely to change. On thing that would help would be a big game from big center A.J. Hammons. He's capable of a double-double every night. For that to happen, he must stay out of foul trouble and avoid turnovers. Repeat. Avoid turnovers. He has a team-high 75 of them. He also much play with focus and attention to detail. He led the Big Ten blocked shots for the second straight season, with 75.

Coach Matt Painter has talked about “making good decisions” so much this season, he should get the phrase copyrighted. Bad turnovers, bad shots and bad shooting have negated a lot of the good things Purdue has done. That puts a big responsibility on guards Ronnie Johnson and Bryson Scott. If they can do their jobs and handle the relentless pressure from Ohio State guards Aaron Craft (the Big Ten defensive player of the year) and Shannon Scott (on the all-conference defensive team), Purdue can get the upset.

This is the perfect time for senior guard Terone Johnson to take charge. He needs five more assists to reach 300 for his career. He also has 1,308 career points.

Defense has been a big reason for the losing record, and the six-game losing streak. Purdue allows 71.9 points, its most since 1998.

Ohio State has won three of the last four Big Ten tourney titles, and Craft is a big part of that. The senior led the league in steals (2.7) and assists (4.6). He's led the Big Ten in steals three times. He also has a conference-career-record 328 steals.

The Buckeyes have, by far, the Big Ten's best defense, allowing just 59.1 points. Don't expect to beat them with three-point sharpshooting. Opponents shoot just 28.6 percent beyond the arc.

Coach Matt Painter: “We have to make good decisions, take care of the ball to slow (Ohio State) down and not allow them to steal points in transition. That will be very important.

“(The first two times we played them), our decision making and ball handling led to them getting in transition. They dominated transition in both games. That will be very important in this game. We didn't get them stopped. We didn't contained Aaron Craft's dribble penetration.

“We need good guard play. We have to make good decisions. When we have it, we give ourselves a chance.

“(As far as Ohio State's recent success with Purdue), everybody has a team like that. Ohio State has had very good players in the last 10 years. (Thad Matta) is a good coach. They do a good job with man to man defense. They are very solid in that area.”