With the all-time series knotted at 79, Ohio State scored 80 points last night to get victory No. 80 over Purdue in overtime, 80-72.
The Boilermakers are known for their stingy defense, holding opponents to an average of 58 points per game, but Ohio State shot an eye-popping 60 percent from the field for the second straight game. The Buckeyes were led by sophomore Evan Turner, who scored a team-high 26 points. He also led his team in rebounds (12) and assists (7).
Turner is averaging nearly 25 points over the last four games and has established himself as a legitimate Big Ten player of the year candidate. He is asked to do so much for this young Buckeye squad and, especially with David Lighty likely out for the season, Turner has stepped up in a major way. His ability to get into the lane at will, despite being guarded by the reigning conference defender of the year, was the difference in the game.
Of course, if you ask Purdue fans, they'll tell you the difference was Robbie Hummel's absence. Hummel, who has been bothered by back spasms most of the season, traveled to Columbus but was not available last night. In such a tight game, it's hard to imagine Hummel wouldn't have made the difference for the Boilermakers. He's not only Purdue's second-leading scorer, he's the team's top rebounder and certainly would've helped his squad shrink Ohio State's 34-18 rebounding advantage.
The loss snaps the Boilermakers' six-game win streak, prevents them from joining Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings, and puts them in a four-way tie for second. Ohio State is right in the hunt, too, at 6-4 in conference play.
Can Purdue win the Big Ten and, more importantly, can they make a deep NCAA Tournament run? The person who could answer that best is probably Hummel's chiropractor. If the star sophomore can stay on the court, Purdue is the most talented team in the conference. But if his back keeps him out for an extended period of time, it will be tough, as Purdue travels to Illinois before a rematch with streaking Penn State.
Gators Get Revenge
It looked like the Florida-South Carolina contest might be headed for overtime as well, as it was tied many times, including midway through the second half. But the Gators used a 12-3 burst to take control of the game down the stretch. South Carolina's Devan Downey did all he could, scoring 10 points in the final 48 seconds, including a couple ridiculous three-pointers, to bring the Gamecocks within two, but it wasn't enough. Florida fed off the home crowd and won the run-and-gun affair at home, 97-93. The loss avenged Florida's heartbreaking defeat to South Carolina at the buzzer two weeks ago.
For all the criticism the SEC is getting, the league has some stellar guard play. Downey scored 33 and Florida's point guard, Nick Calathes, dropped 22 to lead his team (which had six scorers in double figures). Anyone watching had to be impressed with the dribble penetration and deadly outside shooting of both teams' guards.
The SEC can't hide the fact that it has no ranked teams, somewhat of an embarrassment at this point in the season, but come tournament time, Florida, Kentucky, and even Tennessee might prove to be tough outs.
Of course if Kentucky doesn't get out of the funk it's currently in, it may not even reach the Big Dance. The Wildcats dropped their third straight last night, losing at home to Mississippi State, 66-57.
Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson combined for 30 points, but the rest of the Wildcats were quiet as Kentucky shot a dismal 35 percent from the field. Down 13 at half, Kentucky cut the deficit to three with 10 minutes to go, but never got any closer.
The Wildcats are now 5-3 in conference, with a game with Florida coming up next before they travel to Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Kentucky has a resume-boosting win over West Virginia, but in a down year for the SEC it's important Billy Gillespie gets his team back on track quickly.
Other Tuesday Night Highlights
One Big East Team Is Still Perfect: Marquette's fantastic trio of guards equaled DePaul's total scoring output as the Golden Eagles improved to 9-0 in the treacherous Big East, winning 76-61 on the road.
And Another Finally Gets A Win: January was not kind to the Georgetown Hoyas. They went 2-7, losing five straight and plummeting in the conference standings. So they must have been happy to see the calendar turn, especially when it meant Rutgers was coming to town. Georgetown finally got its fourth Big East win last night, defeating the Scarlet Knights 57-47.
Sure They Can Score, But...Should North Carolina fans be worried? A consensus preseason Final Four pick, and the favorite to win it all, the Tar Heels learned they will be without Marcus Ginyard for the rest of the season. Ginyard is North Carolina's best defender, so it was fitting that the Heels allowed 91 points last night. On the bright side, they still won by 17. UNC scored 60 in the first half alone. Last night, 15 teams failed to reach that mark for the entire game.
While Carolina did hit 16 threes and shoot over 50 percent, its defense has to be a concern. Playing without Ginyard doesn't help, but the Heels have enough athletes who, if committed on the defensive end, can all be above-average defenders. They're certainly going to have to improve in that aspect if they want to make the deep tournament run everyone expected them to.