CHICAGO — Judge Sueing stood in the middle of the field waiting for the ball with a smile on his face.
The second half of Saturday afternoon’s Big Ten tournament semifinal was about to begin, and the No. 13 seed from Ohio State was leaking oil, if not already out of gas. An unprecedented run in the tournament had come at a cost, and although the Buckeyes trailed No. 1 seed Purdue for much of the first half, the writing appeared to be on the wall.
Purdue was leading 42-34, but as Sueing prepared to receive the ball from the referee, he looked across the field, surveyed his teammates and cheered. The sixth-year forward and team captain was ready for what was to come, and the hope was to be on that court again on Sunday to play for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
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It wasn’t meant to be. The first Big Ten team to play in Wednesday’s first round to reach the weekend did not reach the title game as Ohio State (16-19) pulled out of the tournament with a loss 80-66 in the semi-final against the Boilermakers (28-5).
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True to their late-season form, the Buckeyes kept coming. With 5:43 remaining, Felix Okpara drew the game’s first foul on Purdue’s Zach Edey, hit one of two free throws, and pulled the Buckeyes up 61-55. And when Edey missed at the other end, Ohio State had a chance to get even closer for Bruce Thornton’s left elbow jumper to hit the rim and rebound.
Edey then drew a foul away from the ball, hit two free throws, and pushed it back to an eight-point game, moving him to 29 points and 10 rebounds at that point. The rest was mostly academic as Purdue qualified for the title for the second straight year.
Edey was the difference. As Ohio State struck early but tired legs failed late, the big man just kept coming, finishing with 34 points on 12 of 25 shots. Roddy Gayle led Ohio State with 20 points and Sueing added 15.
The 19 losses are the most for Ohio State since the 1997-98 Buckeyes went 8-22 overall and 1-15 in the Big Ten.
This loss means the end of the terms of Sean McNeil, Isaac Likekele and Sueing in the State of Ohio. This also begins the official decision clock for Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State’s leading scorer and a projected first-round pick who will have a decision to make. He missed his second game with a season-ending knee injury sustained in Thursday’s win over No. 5 seed Iowa.
Decisions could also be made for end-of-the-bench players Tanner Holden, Kalen Etzler and Bowen Hardman, all three of whom have been used slightly at best over the course of the season. Despite missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017, coach Chris Holtmann will return for a seventh season after receiving a vote of confidence from athletic director Gene Smith and publicly saying he “absolutely” plans to stay with the program.
Smith told The Dispatch on Friday that, win or lose, he believes the NIT should consider the Buckeyes for a general offer despite their record below .500.
As expected of the tournament seed, Purdue came out firing and took control early. And as you’d expect from the tournament’s second-lowest seed, Ohio State took the hit, responded, and settled in. The Boilermakers had a 10-4 lead before the first media timeout and led 17-13 after Zach Edey fed Caleb Furst. for a dunk, but that’s where Roddy Gayle started to take over with a 3s barrage.
He hit one into the right corner to cap Ohio State’s six-game possession streak with points, and when he swept one from right wing on a cross pass from Isaac Likekele, he fired Ohio State even for the first time at 19- all with 12:39 to go and was the start of a 10-0 run that was booked by another Gayle 3 – his fourth of the game – which in took a 26-19 lead over Ohio State midway through the half.
But when Edey returned with 9:59 remaining, the Boilermakers began using his size and physical dominance to crush the Buckeyes. He helped turn the score around when, as Braden Smith hit a jumper, Edey was pulled to the deck by Ohio State’s Gene Brown III. The 6-foot-7, 195-pound winger was flagged 1 for a hook and strike, giving Edey two free throws and allowing Purdue to retain possession.
He hit the free throws, then scored on the ensuing possession to make it a six-point field trip for Purdue and turn a 31-27 Ohio State lead into a 33-31 advantage. Gayle would respond with another 3, his fifth in as many tries up to that point, but it was Ohio State’s only one in the 6:47 halftime finale. As Purdue increased its defense, the Buckeyes knocked it down five times in that streak and limped into the half trailing 42-34.
The Boilermakers closed the half on a 17-3 run, helped by a quick miss from Likekele on a floater that gave Purdue plenty of time for a final shot, which David Jenkins Jr. buried straight from 3 points in the final seconds. .