Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The Ohio State Buckeyes begin defense of their record fifth Big Ten Conference Tournament title, as they take on the Purdue Boilermakers in first-round action on Thursday afternoon.
Ohio State won both encounters during the regular season, and has won five straight over the Boilermakers overall. As a result, Purdue's lead in the all- time series has been cut to 83-81.
The winner of this bout returns to action in the quarterfinals on Friday, where it will take on No. 4 seed Nebraska.
Purdue (15-16, 5-13 Big Ten) limps into the postseason having lost six straight and 11 of its last 13 games overall. The Boilermakers. who were given the No. 12 seed this year, do have one Big Ten Tournament title to their credit, having defeated Ohio State in 2009, and they are just 9-15 all-time in the event. That was only PU's second championship game appearance, the team also turning the trick in the inaugural event back in 1998.
Ohio State defeated Wisconsin, 50-43, in last year's tournament title tilt to claim its fifth trophy and run its record in the event to league-best 27-11. The Buckeyes have reached the championship game in each of the last five years, and a total of nine times in all.
While Purdue clearly has talent on the roster, the team has come up small far too often when playing defense this season. The Boilermakers permit the most points of any club in the Big Ten (71.9 ppg), while ranking somewhere in the middle with regard to scoring offense (72.6 ppg). Coach Matt Painter's squad boasts three double-digit scorers, but none average more than Terone Johnson's lackluster 12.0 ppg. Center A.J. Hammons is beast in the middle, coming up with 7.4 rpg, while logging a league-leading 91 blocked shots.
At the other end of the spectrum, at least as it pertains to defensive prowess, there isn't a better team in the Big Ten and few better in the nation, as Ohio State yields a mere 59.1 ppg. The Buckeyes, who won four of their final six games of the regular season, are a decent offensive club, as a pair of double-digit scorers in LaQuinton Ross (14.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg) help them put up an even 70 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .451 overall and .334 from 3-point range. Aaron Craft (9.5 ppg, 4.6 apg, 79 steals) performs well at both ends of the court, and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts. Craft was also the MVP of last year's Big Ten Tournament.