COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Frustrated with the way teams have been hacking and grabbing him, Greg Oden has kiddingly asked Ohio State coach Thad Matta for a tear-away jersey.
He could have used it on Saturday.
With the 7-foot center in foul trouble in a rough-and-tumble game, Ron Lewis hit a key driving layup and the third-ranked Buckeyes closed with an 11-4 run to hold off Purdue 63-56.
“(It was) basically the same thing: just come at me every time, hold me—I get it all,” Oden said after scoring 14 points and adding nine rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals in 21 minutes. “I’m starting to get used to it.”
The Buckeyes (22-3, 10-1 Big Ten) were in trouble throughout the second half before Lewis broke a tie at 52-52 with a layup with 3:07 remaining off a long pass from Mike Conley Jr.
Ohio State, which won its ninth game in a row and ran its record to 16-0 at home, never trailed again but Purdue threatened right up to the final seconds.
The Boilermakers (16-9, 5-6) did most of their damage when Oden was on the bench.
Teams have found that the best way to play against Oden is to get him off the floor.
“I would say that’s pretty high on the totem pole,” Matta said. “Putting us in that situation, getting him on the bench is obviously advantageous for them both offensively and defensively. We’ve seen a lot of different angles to try and get him in those situations.”
Oden had two fouls at the half and picked up his third early in the second half.
“Sometimes he gets a little frustrated because he’s getting fouled on the other end and not getting calls,” said Conley, who was also Oden’s teammate in high school. “They’re pushing and shoving him and then when he comes back down the court he’ll do the same thing and he’ll get a foul. It’s almost unfair sometimes, because they think that he’s so big he should be able to get pushed around like that. He gets a little frustrated and he gets a couple of fouls that way.”
Still, he scored critical points down the stretch when he made two foul shots—shooting with his off (left) hand—with just over 2 minutes left to expand the lead to four. Oden still wears an elastic brace on his right hand after surgery last June to repair ligament damage in his wrist.
David Teague led the Boilermakers (16-9, 5-6) with 17 points, with Carl Landry adding 13 and Tarrance Crump 12.
Ohio State outscored Purdue 17-5 over the final 8 minutes.
Purdue, which has lost seven in a row and 13 of the past 14 meetings with Ohio State, grabbed a 51-46 lead at the 7:58 mark. Down 46-43, they went on an 8-0 run with Teague hitting two 3-pointers sandwiched around a basket by Gordon Watt.
Then the Boilermakers went cold from the field.
“We had some shots not go down and some careless turnovers,” coach Matt Painter said. “They got fouled in the bonus and when we got fouled we weren’t in the bonus and didn’t have a chance to steal points. Then Greg Oden comes back in the game and you don’t get a chance to knock down points.”
Lewis’ layup gave the Buckeyes the lead to stay.
“The defense almost thought we were about to take a timeout or something. They weren’t as alert,” said Conley, who added 14 points and four assists. “I saw Ron streaking down the sideline and I hit him. We were telling him to run more and he got an easy basket.”
After Teague scored on a drive. Conley scissored through Purdue’s defense for a layup in traffic. After Landry lost the ball when he dribbled it off his foot, Lewis was fouled with 26 seconds left and hit one free throw.
“We knew it was slipping away,” Painter said.
Jamar Butler and Lewis added foul shots in the final seconds.
On Purdue’s last possession, Keaton Grant drove the lane and Oden swatted his shot into the seats near the Purdue bench.
The Buckeyes had one of their worst shooting games of the season, hitting just 14 of 21 free throws and making 43 percent from the field—including just 3 of 17 3-pointers.
Ohio State honored its past captains at halftime, including former Boston Celtics star John Havlicek, class of ’62.
Havlicek isn’t rooting for Oden to leave Ohio State early, but still hopes the big man ends up wearing Celtics green.
“Why not?” Havlicek said. “Can you think of anyone else in the country who’s a big man who you prefer over him?”