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Buckeyes bounce Boilermakers, 65-61, after 2nd-half surge

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The Ohio State men’s basketball team overcame a 12-point first-half deficit to win its second straight game at the Schottenstein Center.

The Buckeyes (21-8, 10-6) fell behind, 35-23, at halftime against Purdue (19-10, 11-5), but outscored the Boilermakers 42-26 in the second half to win 65-61 Sunday night, avenging a 60-58 Feb. 4 loss to Purdue on the road.

OSU was led once again by freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, who rebounded from a first half in which he turned the ball over three times to score 17 points in the second half to lead the Buckeyes to the comeback victory.

Trailing by one, Russell drove inside and scored with 58.6 seconds remaining to give the Buckeyes the lead for good.

OSU coach Thad Matta said he expected Purdue to play Russell differently on the play that ultimately won the game for the Buckeyes.

“They didn’t guard it the way we thought they were going to and give (Russell) credit, he was patient, he checked his options and then made the play,” Matta said after the game. “That kind of tells you his basketball intellect.”

Senior center Amir Williams rejected a Purdue shot at the rim on the ensuing possession. Senior guard Shannon Scott and redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams iced the game in the final 13 seconds, combining to make four straight free throws for the Buckeyes.

Russell finished with a game-high 28 points, also leading the Buckeyes by pulling down seven rebounds.

Although Matta has coached Russell for almost an entire season, he said he was still impressed with the performance the Louisville, Ky., native put together.

“Quite honestly, he did some things that I don’t have drills to teach,” Matta said. “A couple of those moves he made were some big time basketball plays. Sometimes he gets on a roll like that and tonight we saw (it). That was a tremendous performance by him.”

A three-point play by senior forward Sam Thompson with 5:30 to play in the game gave OSU a 52-49 lead, its largest since the 8:25 mark in the first half.

OSU took advantage of being in the bonus for the final 10:36 of the second half, making 18-of-24 free throws after the break, including 8-of-9 courtesy of Russell and Thompson combined.

The Buckeyes got to the line a total of 35 times on the night and made 71 percent, something Matta said was a point of emphasis coming into the game.

“I thought we did a better job of attacking than we did in game one (against Purdue),” Matta said. “Fortunately, we made a decent percentage of them.”

The Buckeyes also overcame an offensive and defensive onslaught from Purdue junior center A.J. Hammons, who led the Boilermakers in points (16) and blocks (3).

The Buckeyes and Boilermakers combined for 41 personal fouls in the game, four of which were picked up by Amir Williams, who said he felt the game was more physical than usual.

“Early on, (the game) kind of got me a little bit, but once I got myself settled, I was pretty good,” he said.

Despite only registering six points, Amir Williams finished with three blocks, earning praise from his coach.

“I thought Amir, with three blocked shots, was as good as he could be,” Matta said.

Hammons was also a large reason why Amir Williams and fellow OSU senior center Trey McDonald combined for nine fouls with McDonald fouling out. That sent the Boilermakers into the bonus with 9:15 remaining in the game.

Unlike the Buckeyes, Purdue hit just 4-of-9 free throws in the second half.

The halftime lead for Purdue was in large part because of a 21-6 run spanning the final 8:25 of the first half in which the Buckeyes committed eight of their 12 turnovers.

With the win, OSU moves into a three-way tie with Iowa and Michigan State for the fourth spot in the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes are a combined 0-3 against the Spartans and Hawkeyes this season.

The top four teams in the conference earn a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, scheduled to begin March 11 in Chicago.

The Buckeyes are set to hit the road on Wednesday to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in State College, Pa. OSU won the first matchup, 75-55, Feb. 11 in Columbus. Tip is set for 6 p.m.

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