COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lenzelle Smith Jr., starting his 100th game, hit 4 of 7 3-pointers and scored 16 points to lead Ohio State past Purdue 67-49 on Saturday night, the Buckeyes’ third win in a row after losing five of six.
LaQuinton Ross led the way with 17 points for Ohio State (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten).
Reserves Kendall Stephens and Rapheal Davis had 12 and 11 points with A.J. Hammons adding 11 for the Boilermakers (14-10, 4-7), who have lost five of six overall and their last four on the road.
The Buckeyes won their first 15 games to get to No. 3 in the nation. Then lost four in a row and split the next two. Coming off two huge road wins, winning at No. 14 Wisconsin 59-58 on Feb. 1 and at No. 17 Iowa 76-69 on Tuesday.
Ahead by six at the half, the Buckeyes and Boilermakers traded buckets to start the second half.
With Ohio State on top 41-36 after Davis’ layup, the Buckeyes ran off five quick points for their biggest lead of the night to that point.
Smith poured in a 3 from the left wing off a Scott pass and Smith then returned the favor with a defensive rebound and an outlet pass that led to Scott’s breakaway.
Purdue didn’t blink, however.
The Boilermakers responded with a 9-2 run which featured Terone Johnson’s first points of the game — he was 0 for 5 from the field before hitting a 3 — to cut the lead to 48-45.
Smith came right back with a 3, though, to stem the comeback. Two possessions later, Williams was fouled by Hammons and hit two free throws. Smith then stole the ball and hit a 3 to push the lead to 56-45 with 5:43 left.
The lead was never in doubt the rest of the way.
It was an odd first half, with Purdue breaking out to a 6-0 lead. Ohio State coach Thad Matta ripped into his lethargic team and it responded with a 10-0 run, fueled for the most part by starting center Amir Williams’s two baskets and a blocked shot.
But Williams, along with his replacement, Trey McDonald, each picked up two fouls by the midpoint of the half. That heralded the introduction of the Buckeyes’ small lineup, with 6-foot-8 swingman Ross guarding Purdue’s Hammons while surrounded with four guards.
Ohio State padded its lead to 23-14 before the Boilermakers ripped off six points in a row, built around Stephens’ 3, to cut the gap to 25-22. But the Buckeyes reeled off the next six points — a 3 by Thompson, Smith’s baseline pull-up and a Craft free throw — to push the advantage back to nine.
Purdue cut it to 31-25 at the break on Davis’ shot behind the arc.
Johnson, leading the Boilermakers with 12.6 points a game coming in, misfired on all four of his shots from the field in the first 20 minutes and was scoreless. He finished with three points.
After a bleak month of January, there is some daylight for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have seven Big Ten games left: four at home (No. 10 Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota, No. 9 Michigan State) and three on road (at Illinois, Penn State and Indiana).