No. 3 Ohio State kicked off their Big Ten season on New Year’s Eve with a 78-69 win at Purdue that actually more impressive than it sounds.
The Boilermakers are a good Big Ten team when A.J. Hammons comes to play, and on Tuesday afternoon he did. The seven-footer finished with 18 points, 16 boards, five blocks and four assists, and while it wasn’t enough to earn Matt Painter’s club the win, it did expose an issue that the Buckeyes could end up facing this season.
The Buckeyes don’t have much size up front. Amir Williams has played well this season, but it has come against mediocre competition. Against an NBA caliber big man like Hammons, Williams managed to stay on the court for all of 14 minutes because of foul trouble. Trey McDonald, his backup and the only big man coming off the bench, managed all of seven minutes against the Boilermakers. Sam Thompson and Marc Loving, the only other two players on the roster that can be considered front court players, played a combined 34 minutes off the bench. All told, Ohio State’s four “bigs” committed 13 fouls in 55 minutes.
What happens when Ohio State plays against the likes of Frank Kaminsky or Adreian Payne? What about an Elite 8 matchup with the likes of Julius Randle or Arizona’s massive front line?
The good news for Ohio State is that LaQuinton Ross is playing great basketball right now.
He went for 25 points and 12 boards Tuesday. He’s averaging 18.0 points in his last nine games. That’s huge, because Ohio State can really lock up defensively and when they get that kind of scoring from Ross, they actually have a go-to guy offensively.
But those issues against front court players will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.