Jaden Ivey often had his way with Big Ten teams, but he saved a particular flair for the dramatic when it came to Ohio State. He never played alongside Fletcher Loyer, but the Purdue freshman guard has a bit of the former all-conference player in him already.
After Ivey handed the Buckeyes a defeat in each of the last two seasons with a 3-pointer in the final seconds, Loyer followed the script and sunk an open one from the left wing with 10.5 seconds to play to give the No. 1 Boilermakers a come-from-behind, 71-69 win against No. 24 Ohio State on Thursday night at Value City Arena. Loyer’s shot capped a 5-0 run for the visitors in the final 30 seconds, negated a Sean McNeil 3-pointer with 41 seconds left and marked the 11th lead change of the night.
It also proved to be the exclamation point on what was a frustrating final minute for the Buckeyes, who led for 25:40 and held a 12-point first-half lead but came up short on each of the final four possessions of the game after going ahead 69-66 on McNeil’s 3.
Ohio State took the lead after Purdue’s Mason Gillis missed his own 3-pointer and the Buckeyes called timeout with 59.5 seconds to play. Purdue made it tough to get the ball to Justice Sueing or Brice Sensabaugh, so McNeil – who missed much of the first half with what appeared to be an ankle injury – simply took the shot himself.
It was the last thing to go right for Ohio State. First, Purdue called timeout with 40.3 seconds remaining, got the ball to 7-4 center Zach Edey and watched as he easily scored at the rim to pull within one point. The Boilermakers then called timeout with 28.3 seconds left and set up their full-court press.
Ohio State’s Bruce Thornton inbounded the ball to sixth-year forward Justice Sueing, who spent more time running the point than he had at any point this season as Thornton dealt with the aftermath of an illness that limited his availability. But after receiving the ball in the corner, Sueing’s attempted pass back to Thornton was nabbed by Purdue’s Ethan Morton and the Boilermakers again called timeout with 17.5 seconds and down 69-68.
“The last play, just not a good pass from me,” Sueing said. “I should’ve took my time maybe a little bit longer but that was the first thing I saw open was Bruce. (Morton) happened to get a hand on it and they ended up getting the possession.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter said Morton’s steal wasn’t something they had specifically gone over during the timeout.
“First of all, it was a great recognition,” he said. “It wasn’t anything that we did. It was just a good read by him and good instincts by him to be able to get that steal. You get in the huddle and talk about 2-3 different scenarios you think might be coming but more than anything you say, stick to our defensive rules.”
It was only Ohio State’s seventh turnover of the game, but the Boilermakers turned them into 10 points including the game-winning shot. Purdue inbounded the ball from in front of its own basket, got the ball to Loyer and immediately fed Edey on the right block. Thornton left Loyer to attempt and double the center as Felix Okpara stood between Edey and the basket, but that left Loyer wide open for his shot.
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann declined to specify if the Buckeyes were planning to double on either the pass or the dribble.
“I’d rather not give that away,” he said. “We were obviously trapping. We didn’t the previous play; we were that one.”
While Loyer’s 3 set the final score, Ohio State still had another chance. The Buckeyes pushed the ball past midcourt and called timeout with 6.4 seconds left and drew up one final shot attempt for freshman Brice Sensabaugh, who led all scorers with 21 points on 10 of 17 shooting.
Purdue destroyed it.
“They ran through the screen,” Holtmann said. “They just bullied the screen. It very easily could’ve been a foul. We’ve got to do a better job of, we have to clean that up, but they just bullied the screen. I just watched it five times. They just ran right through Felix and completely dislodged him to where Brice, Bruce has to space it a little better in that situation but it’s not on Bruce.”
Said Painter: “I thought the play at the end our guys did a good job of sniffing it out. They were trying to bring him back around and those guys were right there and they closed it down on him.”
On Sueing’s turnover, the Loyer 3 and the final play, which ended without Sensabaugh getting an actual shot attempt off, Holtmann said he took responsibility for the outcomes.
“The last play was a little set action we run to get a 3,” Sensabaugh said. “I came off the screen and was kind of expecting the aggressive double switch. I saw it. It was good defense. I give them credit for that. I couldn’t really get it off.”
The loss dropped Ohio State to 10-4 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten but bore some resemblance to its last loss: an 89-84 loss to North Carolina on Dec. 17. In a thriller at Madison Square Garden, the Tar Heels got a game-tying jumper at the buzzer to force overtime after Sensabaugh appeared to have hit the game-winner with three seconds left after successfully executing a pair of last-second strategic plays to get the ball past midcourt and get a final shot.
Holtmann and Sueing said the two games show the razor-thin margin between victory and defeat at the high-major level of Division I men’s basketball.
“Finishing the game all the way through,” Sueing said. “We’re up three with however many seconds left to go. That’s what it comes down to in Big Ten play. The teams here are all good. The end of the game, those last couple possessions, every possession counts. We didn’t make enough plays at the end especially and we paid for it.”
Said Holtmann: “Obviously this was a back-and-forth contest. More than anything as a coach you’re looking back and you’d like to have a couple of those plays back as a coach.”
Thursday night, it was Purdue that made the final plays that mattered. Ohio State will now go to Maryland on Sunday before hosting Minnesota on Jan. 12 and going to Rutgers – whom the Buckeyes beat on a buzzer-beater in the Big Ten opener for both teams on Dec. 8.
Ohio State will go to Purdue on Feb. 19.
“We’re not better than Ohio State,” Painter said. “In this game, we were just one possession better. They obviously have a really good team and they’re well coached.”
Zed Key’s status unknown after leaving with shoulder injury
Much of Ohio State’s planning for Purdue centered on how to stop Edey, who entered the game averaging 21.7 points and 13.4 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game. Wednesday afternoon, Holtmann said much of the responsibility would fall on the shoulders of Zed Key, Ohio State’s third-year center averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in 28.0 minutes per game.
Instead, the 6-8, 255-pound junior was forced to leave the game less than four minutes in after suffering what was announced as a left shoulder sprain. Without him, freshman Felix Okpara logged a career-high 30:10 of playing time and finished with 5 points, five rebounds, two assists and no turnovers while battling with Edey.
“No update,” Holtmann said about Key’s status. “Shoulder injury. We’ll know more (Friday).”
Key has battled a left shoulder injury throughout the season and occasionally worn black athletic tape on it. He briefly left a Nov. 30 game at Duke after taking a shot to the shoulder, but after battling with Edey for a defensive rebound Key painfully made his way to the locker room with his left arm dangling from its socket.
“They lose one of the best players in our league that goes out after the first three minutes,” Painter said. “Zed Key is a really good player. That wasn’t fair to them.”
His absence affected how Ohio State had prepared for a player at the forefront of the national player of the year discussion. Without him, the Buckeyes relied heavily on Okpara but also used 6-7, 195-pound wing Gene Brown III on Edey at times with success.
In his third game of the season after suffering a concussion during the preseason, Brown played 6:02 split pretty evenly between the two halves. He had 3 points and two rebounds.
“They were putting Eugene Brown on him for a while,” Painter said. “They had a little bit more success there. Eventually we’re going to hopefully get the ball to him in those situations and they know that so they’ve got to get Okpara back in there. I thought Okpara did a good job. I liked what they did.”
Rotations lacking from double teams
Key’s absence was felt in Ohio State’s defensive coverages in more ways than just attempting to stop Edey. When the 7-4 center would get the ball, the Buckeyes spent more time doubling him than they have any other player this season.
That was mostly fine. It was when Edey would kick the ball back out to a teammate that Ohio State routinely got into trouble.
“The thing that happens with teams that double that don’t usually double, they’re pretty good at their double, they’re not very good at their rotation, because guys aren’t used to it,” Painter said. “Most coaches don’t like rotations, because when you get in rotations you get behind plays and people start driving the ball and you start fouling. Ohio State doesn’t double much, so when they’ve had to double, their double is pretty good but then sometimes their rotation was good and sometimes tonight there wasn’t a guy coming to the shooter.
“It takes a lot of practice. We double a lot ourselves. If Zed Key would’ve stayed in the game, we would’ve doubled him the whole game because that’s what we do, but there’s times I’m concerned about it because it’s hard to rotate sometimes.”
Purdue entered the game shooting 30.5% from 3, the second-lowest mark in the Big Ten, but went 13 for 31 (41.9%) against the Buckeyes. The 13 makes are a season high and the most allowed by the Buckeyes, who had only allowed one team (San Diego State, 10) to make double-digit 3-pointers.
“We broke down a little bit,” Sueing said. “I thought we did a better job in the second half. Those plays were lacking some discipline and attention to detail in, they made us play. It was just some rotation stuff. It’s an easy fix, but we didn’t get enough good rotations at the end of the day.”
New lineup plays significant second-half minutes
Key’s injury wasn’t the only blow to Ohio State’s rotation. McNeil appeared to land on the foot of Purdue’s David Jenkins Jr. on a first-half 3-point attempt that he missed, but Thornton played 27:22 and finished with 8 points on 2 of 8 shooting and appeared to be fatigued after battling an illness during the week.
Against that backdrop, the Buckeyes went with a rare lineup down the stretch in the second half. From 8:12 until 1:14, Holtmann used a lineup of Sueing, freshman Roddy Gayle, McNeil, Sensabaugh and Okpara that had logged 11 seconds together against North Carolina and otherwise hadn’t played together this season.
“I just felt like defensively we had some good matchups and I felt like we were scoring the ball enough,” Holtmann said. “I felt like we were able to provide enough scoring and physicality and length and I thought Roddy was giving us some good things.”
Ohio State trailed 57-56 when that lineup took the court, and the game was knotted at 66 when Thornton replaced McNeil.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Here’s what went wrong for Ohio State in the last 40 seconds vs Purdue
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