Ohio State(14-0) remained unbeaten on the year and got the B1G off to a good start in defeating Purdue(10-4) 78-69 in front of a rowdy crown at Mackey Arena. This game showed you both the blueprint for a run at the B1G title and a deep tourney run as well as the manner in which the season could end earlier than expected. LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes with 25 points and 12 rebounds while Shannon Scott added 18 points and Lenzelle Smith 14. In addition to that, Marc Loving provided a much needed spark off the bench with 8 points. While the balanced attack is what will provide Ohio State what is needed to meet expectations this year, the lack of depth at the Center spot will almost certainly be the Achilles heel the rest of the season. Ohio State had no answer for A.J. Hammonds down low as he kept Amir Williams in foul trouble and rendered Trey McDonald a non-factor off the bench. The 7-0, 251 pound Sophmore scored a team 18 points for the Boilermakers using his raw skills to create space and rebound the basketball. He also added 5 blocks and 4 assists. Purdue also had a balanced effort with Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson and Basil Smotherman adding 16, 13 and 9 points respectively. The big difference between Ohio State and Purdue is the Buckeyes have Aaron Craft and Purdue doesn’t.
If the Ohio State Buckeyes are a mint 1969 Camaro SS, then Aaron Craft is the 396 cu in V8 engine. While he only scored 7 points, he had 10 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and didn’t turn the ball over once. But most of what Craft does not show up on the stat line. From blocking passing lanes on defense to making sure his teammates are in position on offense, Craft is the clear quarterback for this team. During one stretch in the first half, with the game tightly contested, Craft raced to get a piece of Ronnie Johnson 3 point attempt as well as hustle down the rebound after it hit off the side of the backboard and finish the play with a layup. Craft’s play is infectious for his teammates as they try to hustle as hard as their team leader. While Thad Matta is certainly lucky to have Craft, it will be as equally as tough to replace the Senior next season.