Purdue coach Matt Painter threw his arms in the air repeatedly Tuesday night.
Time after time, he watched the Boilermakers take the ball to the rim. Time after time, he watched in angst as the ball rolled off the rim.
On a night Deshaun Thomas scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds and No. 15 Ohio State shot 55.6 percent from the field, Purdue simply couldn’t afford the misses. The Buckeyes took advantage, holding on for a 74-64 win.
“You don’t work on missing layups. You work on going to the basket strong,” Painter said, trying to explain what has become a troubling problem. “Sometimes, at game speed, you don’t really know what happened, so you watch it on film and dissect it and try to work on it.”
Looks like the Boilermakers (7-8, 1-2 Big Ten) have plenty of things to work on this week.
Terone Johnson finished with 18 points and six rebounds. His younger brother Ronnie had 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists, and freshman A.J. Hammons finished with 13 points and eight rebounds despite sitting most of the first half with foul trouble.
The Boilermakers shot just 38.8 percent from the field.
“We just didn’t put the ball in the basket, but we had the ball where we wanted it to be,” Painter said. “In my opinion, we’re getting the shot we want, we’re just not converting it. We’ve got to do a better job converting it.”
Especially against teams like Ohio State, who have scorers such as Thomas, who was welcomed back to his home state with a cascade of boos.
The Indiana native ignored the catcalls and played his game. He was 8 of 13 field goals, making 4 of 7 3-point attempts and scoring 14 points in the first half — almost entirely without his partner, Aaron Craft, on the court because of foul trouble.
“I didn’t hear the crowd. I didn’t really care about the boos, that’s about being on the road,” Thomas said. “I know the Indiana people have much love for me.”
To the Buckeyes and their fans, who have watched Thomas pile up more than 1,000 points in 2½ seasons, it may have looked like just another midweek conference game. The Big Ten’s top scorer came into Tuesday night averaging 20.2 points and did nothing to damage his reputation as a big-time scorer when the Buckeyes needed him most.
He finally got some help in the second half when Craft scored 13 of his 15 points. Evan Ravenel added 11 points for Ohio State (12-3, 2-1).
But it was Thomas who constantly pushed the Buckeyes, spurring key first-half runs of 13-2 and 9-0 that allowed Ohio State to take a 10-point halftime lead and dictate the rest of the game.
Ohio State made an embarrassing 19-point loss Saturday at Illinois that was so bad, coach Thad Matta considered changing the starting lineup.
Eventually, he relented, and Thomas and his teammates never let him second-guess that choice. They shot 55.6 percent from the field, limited Purdue to 38.8 percent shooting, outrebounded the Boilermakers 38-32 and handed Matta his 100th career victory in Big Ten play.
It was all part of the plan.
“We came out with toughness and our offensive execution was going well. We knew we needed to do that after the Illinois game and that’s what we did,” Thomas said. “We came out with toughness and executed really well.”
Purdue couldn’t keep up with Thomas’ strong start or the Buckeyes’ supporting cast as they lost for the second straight time to a Top 20 team after upsetting No. 11 Illinois last week.
Yet somehow, the Boilermakers still had a chance late.
After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, they were still down 68-54 with 6:09 to go.
But instead letting the Buckeyes pull away, the Boilermakers scored six straight points. That cut the lead to 70-64 when Terone Johnson made two free throws with 2:55 left. They could have gotten even close when Terone Johnson grabbed the rebound off an errant Ohio State shot with 2:25 left, but Ronnie Johnson missed the jumper at the other end.
Ohio State answered with a midrange jumper from Sam Thompson and the Buckeyes held Purdue scoreless the rest of the way.
“I am so excited for Deshaun,” Matta said. “I thought he was so efficient tonight in his play. He’s come so far in the three years he’s been at Ohio State and in this program, just his demeanor, from the day he arrive at Ohio State from (Fort Wayne) Bishop Luers to where he is today.. I’m just excited for him because he’s worked really, really hard and I hope he continues to play at the level he is.”