2012 Ohio State Basketball
Buckeyes Escape Upset-minded Boilermakers
Senior leadership is often overlooked and nonexistent in today's "one-and-done" college basketball world.
On Tuesday night, the 3rd ranked Ohio State Buckeyes couldn't overlook the performance put on by senior William Buford.
With two starters on the bench and the score tied late against the visiting Purdue Boilermakers, Buford, the only senior on the roster, scored a career-high 29 points and capped his night with a pivotal dunk in the final minute to lead the Buckeyes to an 87-84 victory.
"I just got good looks," Buford said. "I was taking them and fortunate enough to knock them down. I wasn't thinking about my shots, I was just shooting the ball like my teammates have been telling me to do. That was about it."
Buford scored 21 points in the second half to carry the Buckeyes (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) while All-American Jared Sullinger and point guard Aaron Craft were on the bench with foul trouble.
Furthermore, Buford scored seven straight points for Ohio State down the stretch and his aforementioned dunk with 39 seconds left sealed it.
Buford hasn't had an overwhelming senior campaign thus far and the Columbus faithful have been very critical of his play of late.
However, his head coach Thad Matta has never backed down in supporting his 4-year leader.
"I haven't ever worried about Will," Matta said. "Maybe not every shot's been falling for him. But I've got confidence in him and I'll never lose it."
Along with Buford, Sullinger added 18 points while Deshaun Thomas and Craft chipped in 13 apiece for the first-place Buckeyes, who have won six straight and eight of nine.
But this win didn't come as easy as the Buckeyes would have hoped.
"Sometimes you have to find a way to win," Craft said. "And we did that tonight."
D.J. Byrd, averaging a mere 6.5 points a game, had a career-best 24 for the Boilermakers (15-9, 5-6), while Kelsey Barlow and Lewis Jackson each contributed 14 points.
"I thought we played well enough to win," Purdue head coach Matt painter said after watching his team shoot a superb 52 percent from the field including 58 percent (11-of-19) from beyond-the-arc. "We just didn't get a couple of breaks at the end."
Just how much of a battle did the Boilermakers put up?
No more than three points separated the teams for the entire second half until Buford went off down the stretch.
With the score tied at 73 and 4:38 left, Buford swished a shot from the top of the key to give the Buckeyes the lead for good. At the other end, Barlow's shot was blocked by Ohio State's Sam Thompson. Buford then came down and hit another long jumper to put OSU up 77-73.
After Hummel missed a 3-pointer, Buford took a pass in the backcourt, stepped back, and hit a rainbow triple to make it 80-73 with 2:54 left as the Value City Arena crowd went crazy.
Purdue drew to five points on Jackson's drive through traffic at 1:53.
With just over a minute left, Sullinger went back to the bench after being hurt on a rebound attempt. Byrd, who was fouled on the play, split the pair of free throws to make it 80-76.
Craft then hit a free throw before Buford tipped away a loose ball at the defensive end and raced the length of the court for the game-clinching flush.
Not to discount the effort from the Boilermakers, but perhaps the Buckeyes were nearly caught looking ahead to their big matchup against the 12th ranked Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.
The matchup could very well decide who sits atop the Big Ten Conference at the end of the regular season.
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