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Shooting issues plague No. 22 Ohio State in loss at Penn State

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Since the start of Big Ten play one of the questions concerning No. 22 Ohio State was who would provide the perimeter shooting needed to factor into the Big Ten race. With the lack of a quality scoring threat in the post thanks to Deshaun Thomas’ early departure, those shot-makers became even more important for Thad Matta’s team.

Entering Thursday’s game at Penn State the Buckeyes ranked seventh in the Big Ten in three-point shooting, making just 32.8% of its attempts in conference play. Ohio State shot even worse from beyond the arc in Happy Valley, making five of their 17 attempts, and this combined with an off night from the foul line factored into the 65-63 defeat.

Penn State’s D.J. Newbill, who scored 25 points and hit the game-winning basket in the first meeting, scored 23 points and Tim Frazier added 16 for the Nittany Lions. If anything the area in which Penn State hurt Ohio State was in second-chance points, as they outscored the Buckeyes 15-5.

But even with the productivity of Penn State’s experienced guards and the second-chance points, the problem for Ohio State was their shooting. In addition to the three-point shooting the Buckeyes made 18 of their 27 free throws, with players other than LaQuinton Ross (11-for-13) combining to shoot 7-for-14. Ross (19 points) and Aaron Craft (ten points) were the lone players to score in double figures, but Craft also had to navigate second-half foul trouble while finishing the game with five turnovers.

Penn State was able to do a good job of switching defensive looks, mixing in some zone to go along with their man-to-man, and it did impact the Buckeyes’ effectiveness. A regular season finale against Michigan State represents an opportunity for a quality win before the Big Ten tournament, and a win there would benefit the Buckeyes from a seeding standpoint.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. (2-for-7 FG) and Sam Thompson (3-for-10 FG, no free throw attempts) were both quiet against Penn State, and even with his 19 points Ross shot 4-for-12 from the field. Ohio State clearly has the talent needed to win games, but in order to take that next step this group has to become more consistent offensively.

No. 18 Purdue survives No. 8 Michigan State in overtime thriller

Purdue center A.J. Hammons (20), center, celibates with forward Vince Edwards (12) and forward Jacquil Taylor (23) following an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Purdue defeated Michigan State 82-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Rapheal Davis hit a free throw with five seconds left and after missing the second, A.J. Hammons grabbed the offensive rebound and killed the clock as No. 18 Purdue survived No. 8 Michigan State in overtime, 82-81, in Mackey Arena.

It was a fitting way for the game to end, as Davis finished with a career-high 24 points, scoring 19 and hitting all five of his threes in the first half as the Boilermakers opened up a lead that, at one point, ballooned to 18 points. Hammons chipped in with 19 points, 13 boards (seven offensive), eight blocks and three assists, doing the majority of his damage in the second half.

Purdue needed this win for a number of reasons, not the least of which is seeding. This is easily Purdue’s best win of the season, depending on how you value beating Florida on a neutral court and winning at Pitt. Not only will it behoove them on Selection Sunday, but with how crowded the middle of the Big Ten is, this could be a valuable tie-breaker for the Big Ten tournament seeding.

Case in point: the Boilermakers are currently all alone in fourth place in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State is all alone … in seventh. It would be the other way around had the Spartans won.

But more than that, Purdue just needed a big win. Entering Tuesday night, the Boilermakers lost basically every big game they’ve played this season. There was that disappointing effort against Butler in the Crossroads Classic. There was the 19-point lead they blew at home against Iowa. They lost the rematch with Iowa two weeks later. They gave away a late lead against Maryland over the weekend.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe, to Purdue, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Pitt and the Hall of Fame Classic matchup with Florida mattered just as much to them. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the games that drew the most national attention all ended up in a disappointing performance — or, more accurately, a disappointing finish — from the Boilermakers.

But Purdue came very, very close to doing the exact same thing on Tuesday.

Because they were up by 18 points in the first half and, thanks to 27 points, 10 assists and eight boards from Denzel Valentine, Michigan State stormed back to take a late lead. In fact, Purdue scored the last four points of regulation just to get this game to overtime, and if Valentine had hit a tough, pull-up jumper at the buzzer, this would be a totally different column.

But Purdue survived, and it will be interesting to see how this will affect their confidence in big games moving forward.

As far as Michigan State is concerned, it was a bit worrisome how poorly Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris played. They combined to shoot 4-for-19 from the floor and 2-for-9 from three. Part of that can be attributed to Rapheal Davis and his ability to chase people off of screens, but that duo missed so open looks and, in Harris’ case, a pair of dunk attempts.

Sparty needs them to be better if they are going to reach their potential.

Ellis, Lucas lead No. 6 Kansas past No. 10 West Virginia

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) blocks a shot by West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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In the first meeting between No. 10 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas, the Mountaineers dominated in their 74-63 win in Morgantown. Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” attack forced 22 Kansas turnovers, with the Jayhawks playing far too fast and loose with the basketball while also getting out-toughed by the Mountaineers. In the rematch Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) looked far better equipped to deal with West Virginia in both of those areas, winning by the final score of 75-65.

Kansas committed 15 turnovers, with Devonte’ Graham responsible for five of them, but they did not allow West Virginia (19-4, 8-3) to use those chances to kickstart their offense. The Mountaineers scored 13 points (one fewer than Kansas, which took advantage of ten WVU miscues) off of those turnovers and did not register a single fast break points. Having to play in the half-court more than they would have liked, West Virginia could not execute at the level they did in beating Baylor Saturday.

As a result Bob Huggins’ team shot 37.3 percent from the field and 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers have shown signs of being able to win games in which they don’t force a high turnover count, but that wasn’t the case at Allen Fieldhouse.

If not for West Virginia grabbing better than 34 percent of their misses and scoring 14 second-chance points, the margin is likely even greater than the ten-point outcome due to the contract in offensive execution. Kansas pushed the ball early, getting out to an 8-0 lead, and as the game wore on the Jayhawks were much better in finding quality shot opportunities. Bill Self’s team shot 56.1 percent from the field with Perry Ellis scoring 21 points to lead five Jayhawks in double figures.

The tandem of Ellis and Landen Lucas, who grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds and blocked four shots to go along with his nine points, won the battle against a WVU front court missing the suspended Jonathan Holton. Devin Williams, who went for 17 and 12 in the first meeting, finished the rematch with a respectable 14-point, nine-rebound effort but he didn’t get much help in the post from the likes of Elijah Macon and Nathan Adrian.

After having Self question their toughness in a home win over Kansas State six days ago, the Jayhawks have responded with wins over TCU and West Virginia. Obviously it’s tough to read too much into beating the Horned Frogs, because even with that game being in Fort Worth it’s one Kansas was expected to handle with ease. The Mountaineers posed a different, and far more rigorous test, and Kansas got the job done.

As a result the Jayhawks have brought West Virginia back to the pack in the Big 12 title race, making Saturday’s game at No. 3 Oklahoma even bigger than it already was.