WE WENT THERE: Purdue at Ohio State
I went to the Purdue-OSU game in Columbus. Here are some scattered thoughts from my night.
- We grabbed dinner at DiBella’s, which is apparently a franchised sandwich shop I’ve never seen. I had the chicken Philly with everything on it, and it was absolutely delicious, and I recommend everyone to get in on the action happening at their local DiBella’s and hey DiBella’s the Purdue Basketball Beat could use a sponsor.
- While at dinner, we looked up the line. It was OSU -9. NINE. And this was after Vince Edwards was cleared to play. I almost had a heart attack trying to get a bookie on the phone to dump my entire life savings on Purdue to cover that ridiculous spread. The lesson: always keep an eye on the odds for “public” teams, like Ohio State. There were apparently enough people who thought OSU would win by double digits against this Purdue team, and those people clearly don’t watch college basketball.
- The Schottenstein Center is almost as nice as Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It’s a gorgeous, pro-style court with beautiful luxury boxes and a club level that made me feel like an inferior human being.
The first time I’d been there was in 2011 (I think), when the Paint Crew took a bus full of people to sit approximately 7 miles above the court and cheer on JJ and E’Twaun. This time, these were my seats:
In the Nationwide-sponsored section, because my life is dope and I do dope sh*t.
- Though the Schott is a massive alien spaceship, the parking lots are so far away that you can’t even see the stadium. I was prepared for several hours to be lost getting to the stadium before the game and back to my car afterwards. The entire experience, before and after the game: 10 minutes of travel time. OSU has a never-ending fleet of buses that apparently run on National Title-related happiness and concentrated $20 bills from boosters around the world. It was super weird to be at a university that had, you know, infrastructure and stuff.
- Purdue was hitting absolutely nothing during warm ups. This made me wish I had snuck in some pepto.
- Isaac Haas is an unbelievably massive human being. I know you’re probably thinking “of course he is, Aneesh. Everyone knows 7’2” is large.” If you’re currently on campus, or have made it to other games this season, you’ll understand. If you’ve only watched them on TV…well, here’s an adult-sized human stretching Haas’ legs:
I made a bigger deal of this than I should have, and annoyed all the O$U fans around me by saying “any big guy who’s that skilled already has an NBA check waiting for him, good luck hahaha”.
Spoiler alert: the night did not end well for young Isaac.
- The National Anthem was played with 10 minutes to go in pregame. That was weird. They also had four people translating the anthem into sign language at center court. That was pretty cool.
- Pregame videos featured healthy amounts of Aaron Craft (and his rosy red cheeks), Mike Conley and Greg Oden (both of whom I irrationally love, sorry I’m not sorry), Bob Knight (I totally forgot he won a national championship as an OSU player), and at least 3 different clips of that Evan Turner Big Ten Tourney shot to beat Michigan.
- The atmosphere after tip off felt a lot like Pacers games, except if Area 55 and the G2 Zone (the fairly crazy fan sections sponsored by Roy Hibbert, George Hill, and Paul George) were courtside. It was very clinical, with the students holding up white-board signs begging for the rest of the crowd to stand up and get vocal. For everything I’ve seen talking about OSU’s “great” home court advantage, it was a pretty disappointing showing from the non-students. The crowd did get pretty loud during isolated moments in the second half, but nowhere close to the constant din of Mackey Arena or Assembly Hall.
- Now, that being said…the beyond-awful refereeing crew of John Higgins, Mike Sanzere, and Mike Eades probably played a huge part in silencing the crowd. I don’t think they impacted the game’s outcome, but that’s more due to the fact that their incompetence was equal on both sides of the ball. It was not just the 41 total fouls that ruined the pace of the game…it also included such highlights as inadvertent whistles, invisible travel calls, two separate instances of back-to-back illegal screens, and what I can only presume to be 30 extra minutes of TV time for each official’s lovely faces. Not great for a basketball game, but fantastic if you’re a referee trying to start a career as a Hollywood extra.
- Ohio State had 8 unforced turnovers, with most of them coming off errant passes to a ghost on the floor. Thad Matta turned a shade of scarlet I didn’t know previously existed.
- “Who’s that Ivan Drago kid lurching around out there?” –an Ohio State fan, asking about Isaac Haas. Yeah…it wasn’t Haas’ best night. I chalk it up to trainers forgetting to pack his limbs in the team bus. That sort of thing happens from time to time, and the result was a Purdue backup center that was 100% torso.
- Both Purdue and Ohio State were unbelievably ugly in the first half, but the combination of Purdue’s stout perimeter defense and an offensive attack centered around AJ Hammons, Jon Octeus, and Ray Davis gave Purdue a strong 12 point lead at halftime. Even though I have a massive crush on D’Angelo Russell, I really thought Purdue would comfortably grab this W and I’d go home happy and regret-free.
- Halftime consisted of one of the coolest contests I’ve ever seen: with the help of Brutus, a member of OSU’s student section was instructed to recreate a famous Buckeye jumper from OSU history. He chose this 2012 William Buford game-winner against Michigan State, and won some amount of money on a comically-large check. It was really creative. The second contest consisted of two…let’s say…not underweight people and one normal sized guy in a dribble-pass-shoot competition. They all failed. It was hilarious.
- Speaking of unexpectedly fun things Ohio State does at basketball games: After any shot or call that goes OSU’s way, they played a generic applause clip of tuxedoed actors/actresses from the 2015 Oscars up on the jumbotron. I support all kinds of randomness, so I enjoyed these way too much.
- It’s not every day that you get to see a future professional make the conscious decision to rescue is team from a disappointing loss, and succeed because there are maybe three non-professionals that can completely shut him down. But that’s exactly what D’Angelo Russell did with about 11 minutes left in the second half. The entire game was a back-and-forth between him and AJ Hammons, but the freshman decided to show the public why he’s a truly special talent. Dowd already wrote about Russell and Matta carving up Purdue’s pretty-good defense, so I’ll leave it at this: I really hope Ohio State fans are savoring every minute they get to watch Russell play in their jersey, because that kid could catch fire in a heartbeat during the tournament and drag OSU to the Final Four. Think Kemba Walker’s flair for the clutch, but a skillset that more closely resembles James Harden at Arizona State, or Deron Williams at Illinois.
- Bryson Scott missed a wide-open Jon Octeus off an inbounds pass, and could have chucked up a lob that burned down the entire campus in Columbus. Instead, he took the more courteous route of ignoring Octeus and inbounding to a double-teamed Davis. Yay.
- Missed free throws. Oh god, the missed free throws. Check the numbers: Purdue: 7-13 OSU: 25-35 …and contrast this with the swaths of fans around me complaining that the refs were handing the game to Purdue. Good times, good times.
- Though it was disappointing to see Purdue wilt at the end (possibly due to AJ Hammons tweaking his ankle, which did seem to slow his activity in the post), the thing that gets to me the most was the play that effectively ended the game for Purdue.
With 1 minute left, Russell hit a beautiful layup in traffic that put OSU up by one. For the next 30 seconds, Purdue ran some version of their offense that a) didn’t include Hammons looking for post position, and b) largely involved iso-ball from Davis and Octeus. So basically they didn’t run any version of their offense at all. The result: a missed Octeus layup with 29 seconds left.
Now, the play call is one thing…but leaving less than 35 seconds on the clock, meaning Purdue wouldn’t get the ball back if they played straight-up defense is a beyond-boneheaded move by a team that was borderline-dominant during the first half. Michael Henry and I debated the benefits of running your offense without worrying about the time versus getting a clean, quick shot to maximize the amount of possessions Purdue gets to end the game. The problem: with 1 minute left, you have 25 seconds to run a play to get a clean look AND get the final possession of the game. Purdue managed to do neither. Aneesh was angry.
All in all, it was a really fun weekend in Columbus that culminated in a close, ugly game and a disappointed/sleepy drive home. I’m really glad I made the trip, though, because it is probably the last time I’ll see AJ Hammons in a Purdue jersey. And, before that tweaked ankle, he didn’t disappoint. His hook shot over undersized defenders is damn near automatic, and his activity level on and off the court was incredible for a guy whose biggest question mark is his “motor”. I sent this tweet during the second half:
AJ spent the majority of his bench minutes standing up, encouraging his teammates from the sidelines and pointing out some lapses he saw on both ends of the floor. In other words: pack up those “AJ Hammons doesn’t care and has a weak motor” criticisms, because he’s been the unquestioned leader of a tournament-bound team for about two months now. Check out this postgame interview from the Journal and Courier:
[[CLICK HERE]] for that JC interview.
“It’s tough. I’m pissed right now, we should have won this [game]. It was just dumb plays by me at the end, with fouls and everything. I’ll take this loss on me.”
That’s the AJ I want leading this team, even after a win slips out of Purdue’s hands. The loss was not, in the slightest, on AJ’s shoulders…but that’s what leaders do. Team AJ for life.