Recapping the late games of the Big Ten Quarterfinals

And we’re back! After an exciting first two games of the Big Ten Quarterfinals, the last two games did not disappoint. Penn State drubbed Ohio State for a third time this season by a score of 69-68 behind impressive performances from Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens. Rutgers, the surprise of the Big Ten Tournament, gave Purdue a run for their money, but ultimately fell short, losing 82-75. Let’s take a look and see how it happened.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Penn State

Recapping the Late Games of the Big Ten Quarterfinals

Tony Carr’s game-winning assist propelled Penn State past Ohio State (Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports).

Ohio State entered this game 0-2 on the season against the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes dropped a heart breaker on their home court after Penn State’s Tony Carr hit a half-court buzzer beater for the win, 82-79. The Nittany Lions blew the Buckeyes out of the building in State College, demolishing Coach Chris Holtmann’s squad 79-56. At the end of the day, Penn State was too much for Ohio State as the Nittany Lions eliminated the Buckeyes with a

Penn State jumped out to a fast 12-4 lead behind two monstrous dunks from Lamar Stevens. The Nittany Lions dictated the offensive flow, creating open jump shots for Carr and company. Ohio State quickly bounced back with a 16-3 run of their own. Five different offensive Buckeye players knocked down three point shots to vault Ohio State back into the lead.

Both teams proceeded to trade buckets for the remainder of the second half. However, Carr and Stevens carried the Nittany Lions to a 33-32 halftime lead. Carr and Stevens scored 14 and 12 points respectively. Penn State junior guard Josh Reaves did a masterful job at limiting Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop to only eight points and two points at the break. Penn State dominated the paint, outscoring Ohio State 14-3 in the lane in the first half.

The second half entailed much of the same with both teams trading blows. However, with under 10 minutes to play, Bates-Diop started to impose his will on the Nittany Lions. Bates-Diop ended up with 25 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Bates-Diop knocked down a big three point shot and beat Reaves one-on-one twice with under three minutes to play to seemingly give Ohio State some breathing room.

Trailing by four points with under two minutes to play, the Nittany Lions battled back by getting to the foul line. Carr drew a foul on Bates-Diop and proceeded to make one of two from the pinstripe. After a missed three pointer by Bates-Diop, Reaves took the ball to the hole, missed the floater, but was fouled by Andrew Dakich on the offensive glass. Reaves knocked both down, cutting the Ohio State lead to 68-67 with 41.5 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing Buckeye possession, Ohio State’s motion offense forced the smaller Shep Garner to switch onto Bates-Diop. This was the mismatch Holtmann wanted to create, but it backfired as the quicker Garner stripped Bates-Diop from behind. This allowed Carr to hold for the final shot.

Carr worked the Buckeye defense and began to penetrate the middle of the lane with about five seconds. C.J. Jackson moved off of Reaves slightly to keep Carr from taking Dakich off of the dribble. Reaves cut immediately to the basket and Carr thread the needle with a perfect pass resulting in a Reaves game-winning dunk with 3.1 seconds remaining.

Carr showed why he is arguably the best player in the Big 10 tonight. Carr poured in 25 points, hauled in six rebounds and dished out five assists. The Nittany Lions desperately needed this victory to show the selection committee why they are worthy of a Tournament bid.

No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 Rutgers

Recapping the Late Games of the Big Ten Quarterfinals

Carsen Edwards led the No. 8 Boilmakers to the semifinals with 26 points (Sandra Dukes/USA TODAY Sports).

Rutgers entered the Big Ten Tournament with only three Big Ten wins on the season. Against all odds, they came into this game riding a two game win streak and were playing with house money. Purdue, a senior heavy team, was a 15 point favorite heading into this mismatch (and rightfully so).

However, Rutgers did anything but roll over for the No. 8 team in the nation. The Scarlet Knights jumped out to a 13-5 lead early in the first half behind an aggressive offensive game-plan that involved pushing the pace. Purdue was sluggish in transition defense and Rutgers kept them off-balance from the get-go. Purdue struggled shooting the ball from the outside to start the game as well, only going one for eight from downtown.

However, Purdue eventually settled in and crawled back into the game. The Boilermakers found themselves trailing to the Scarlet Knights 38-35 at halftime. Coach Matt Painter lit a fire in his Purdue squad during the break as they came out gunning.

Both Carsen and Vincent Edwards lit Rutgers up shooting the rock. Vincent Edwards poured in 26 points on 10 of 14 shooting while grabbing five rebounds. Carsen Edwards, a Big Ten first team All-American selection, added 26 points of his own while dishing out five assists. Dakota Mathias, while quiet on the score sheet, proved critical down the stretch for the Boilermakers. Mathias consistently set up Isaac Haas in positions where he could effectively attack a smaller Rutgers team in the waning moments of the game. In the end, Purdue escaped with a 82-75 victory.

While Purdue’s offensive firepower eventually proved to be the decisive factor in this ball game, Rutgers deserves credit for the heart and toughness they displayed. Both Geo Baker and Corey Sanders played lights out basketball, scoring 25 and 23 points respectively. They attacked Purdue’s defense by taking the guards off the dribble, creating separation and shooting mid-range jump shots.

While Rutgers did not walk away with the victory, they may have provided other teams with a blueprint on how to take down Purdue. Rutgers hauled in a total of 17 offensive rebounds in this contest compared to Purdue’s six. Outside of Haas, Purdue struggles keeping teams off of the offensive glass. If Purdue runs into a team with more weapons than Rutgers that rebounds well, they could be in trouble.

Check back tomorrow morning for a preview on the Big Ten semifinal match-ups between No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Michigan and No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 7 Penn State.

Featured image by Julie Jacobson/AP.

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The secret to Ohio State’s stunning turnaround

Jubilation enveloped Ohio State Head Coach Chris Holtmann after his No. 14 ranked team shocked No. 3 Purdue on their home court. Behind a double-double from junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes snapped Purdue’s 19 game winning streak with a 64-63 upset victory. This upset vaulted OSU into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with Purdue.

Not many pundits would have predicted that at this point in the season that the Buckeyes would have the top seed in the Big Ten tournament in their sights. Holtmann, in his first season as Head Coach of the Buckeyes, has completely altered the culture of the locker room. Let’s examine how he did it.

Comeback Kids

Ohio State has played with fire throughout Big Ten Conference play, winning four games where they have trailed by double digits. Ohio State faced a 14 point deficit with 10:17 remaining in the second half against Purdue. In the game prior versus Illinois, Holtmann’s squad dug themselves into a 15 point hole at the 10:51 mark in the first half.

Stagnant and careless ball movement tends to be the primary culprit of these slow starts. In Ohio State’s 75-67 win over Illinois, the Buckeyes committed a total of 15 turnovers with junior point guard C.J. Jackson and Bates-Diop accounting for 10 of them. In their upset over Purdue, OSU committed seven turnovers in the first half as they struggled to find their footing early.

Holtmann deserves credit for keeping his team engaged and optimistic, even when they face early or late deficits. Instead, through creative in-game adjustments, such as riding a small line-up late in the second half against Purdue, have allowed OSU to catch opponent off guard and get back into games.

Plethora of Play-makers

Jae’Sean Tate celebrates a big play (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images North America).

Ohio State’s success has not been a product of luck. Holtmann has been able to create both offensive and defensive schemes that bring out the best in his players. Bates-Diop has transformed into a Wooden Award candidate under Holtmann’s teaching and mentorship. Bates-Diop averages 20.2 points at 50.9 percent shooting, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

Standing at 6-foot-7 and 235-pounds, Bates-Diop’s versatility allows Holtmann increased line-up flexibility. Bates-Diop has a steady mid-range jumper, quick handles and the physicality to burn defenders in the post.

Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble and play on the block. Tate, however, is not a volume scorer. He focuses on efficiency and making the smart basketball play. He averages 12.7 points on 54.8 percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

The engine of Ohio State’s offense is C.J. Jackson. Jackson, a pass first point guard, is an all-around impressive player who can step up and help his team in a variety of ways. He averages 12.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, showing his overall versatility as a player.

Heart of a Fighter

Ohio State had no business winning at Purdue. They were without senior Kam Williams who has been suspended indefinitely for undisclosed reasons. Kaleb Wesson found himself in foul trouble early and only saw 12 minutes of action. Purdue was riding a 19 game winning streak and appeared unbeatable and destined for the number one seed in the Big Ten tournament. In the end though, none of that mattered.

Holtmann and his team rallied around each other and fought through the adversity. On a night where offense came at a premium, Holtmann rolled out a small line-up and the Buckeyes came roaring back behind an aggressive man-to-man defensive scheme. A team that did not believe in each other and in their coach would have quit and accepted it was not their night.

The 2017-2018 Bueckeyes have a different mentality though. They do not back down, regardless of the score or situation. This team personifies the personality and beliefs of Holtmann. After resurrecting a lifeless Butler program, Holtmann left a secure job to take on the daunting task of rebuilding Ohio State’s basketball program. He never shied away from the challenge, instead tackling it head on. And that is exactly what his team has done all season.


Featured image by Joe Maiorana/USA Today Sports

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