With personal milestones behind them, forward E.J. Liddell and coach Chris Holtmann of No. 16 Ohio State set their sights on their Big Ten showdown at No. 6 Purdue on Sunday.
Liddell scored 23 points in a 75-64 win at Minnesota on Thursday to become the 60th player in program history to surpass 1,000 points. Ohio State (13-4, 6-2 Big Ten) is the ninth school with 60 or more 1,000-point scorers.
“I’m so happy for him. He’s had a phenomenal career. He’s led this team in a really special way,” said Holtmann, who reached the 100-win mark (100-48) at Ohio State in his fifth season.
Holtmann was even more pleased with Liddell’s career-high 15 rebounds and five assists and knows the Buckeyes will need another all-around performance from him against the Boilermakers (17-3, 6-3), who have won two straight. Ohio State has won three in a row.
Purdue went on the road Thursday to down Iowa 83-73 in the return of leading scorer Jaden Ivey. He had 15 points in 22 minutes off the bench for the Boilermakers after missing the previous game due to a hip flexor injury,
Isaiah Thompson led four Purdue players in double-figure scoring with a career-high 18 points.
“He stepped up and made some plays,” Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said.
Purdue’s ability to distribute the scoring will be a concern for the Buckeyes.
“They have too many weapons,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of the Boilermakers. “It’s not like you can zero in on one or two guys, it’s everybody. Everybody they have is a veteran guy who can score.”
While Purdue shot 61.2 percent from the floor, they made just 10 of 22 free throws (45.5 percent).
“We were making some plays, but we weren’t capitalizing by missing those free throws,” Painter said.
Ohio State hopes the inside dominance it had against Minnesota continues vs. the Boilermakers.
The Buckeyes had a 48-22 rebounding advantage and of their 36 missed shots, 20 of them became offensive rebounds that resulted in 27 second-chance points.
“E.J., Kyle Young and Malaki (Branham) are some beasts and there is a reason they are the No. 16 team in the country,” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said. “When they weren’t shooting well, they knew they had to crash the glass.
“That is a well-coached team, and they are kind of what this league is all about. They don’t make many mistakes, they are good on both sides of the ball, and you can’t have those lapses, especially the glaring ones, like getting crushed on the glass because they make you pay.”
The Buckeyes got Meechie Johnson Jr. back after missing three games with a facial injury. He had three points and combined with Branham (11 points, six rebounds) to become the first pair of freshmen guards to start a game for Ohio State since the 1995-96 season.
However, fifth-year guard Jamari Wheeler did not play because of a foot injury, ending his consecutive games played streak at 143, including the previous four seasons for Penn State. His status for Sunday is unknown.
–Field Level Media