Lately, William Buford has appeared to struggle to find any type of shooting rhythm. The senior Ohio State guard has come under fire for not being the leader that many expected him to be. His critics were silenced on Tuesday night. Buford scored a career-high 29 points and hauled in 7 rebounds to power the #3 Buckeyes past Purdue 87-84. Jared Sullinger finished with 18 points while Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas each added 13 for the Buckeyes.
After a first half characterized by great shooting and passing, the second half was marked by grueling, physical play with a bunch of fouls. With the game tied and Sullinger and Craft on the bench with foul trouble late in the second half, the Buckeyes needed their only senior to step up. Buford scored 21 second half points, including 7 straight on a run that gave Ohio State the lead for good. He then put the game away for his team with a slam dunk with just 39 seconds left to play. ”When I’m feeling it, it’s hard to stop me,” Buford said after the game. And he was right for saying so. Purdue had no answer for him.
The Boilermakers made the Buckeyes earn this win. Purdue shot 52% from the field and was 58% from beyond the 3 point arc, and until Buford scored the 7 straight points late, the teams were never more than 3 points from each other. While Purdue did shoot the lights out in this game, poor defense from Ohio State did not help. They really seemed to struggle to defend the high ball pick and roll that Purdue was running.
The Buckeye faithful should be encouraged by a few things from this game. First is obviously the stellar play of William Buford. With March Madness just around the corner, it’s important the the Buckeyes are able to count on their only senior to step up and take control on the court in close games. Tonight he showed he is more than capable of doing so. Hopefully, it continues the rest of the regular season and into the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. Second is the fact that the Buckeyes managed to keep it together despite Sullinger and Craft being on the bench for a while late in the game. The fact that Matta has more confidence in his bench players this year and the fact that those players can keep things afloat when the starters are on the bench are very encouraging. Finally, perhaps the most encouraging thing from this game was learned afterwards. “This team is becoming a family,” Sullinger said after the game. That will be a very important x-factor as this team looks to make a run in March. Teams that work together and become families tend to do better down the stretch. Let’s hope it’ll hold true for the Buckeyes.
The win improved the Buckeyes’ record to 21-3 overall and 9-2 in conference play. It also extended their home winning streak to 39 straight games. Next, they will take on the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday evening at 6 pm (EST). The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
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