WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Purdue's fans welcomed Deshaun Thomas back to Indiana with a cascade of boos.
They must have known what was coming after introductions.
The Indiana native ignored the catcalls and instead responded with a resounding 22-point, seven-rebound effort, sometimes single-handedly carrying No. 15 Ohio State to a 74-64 victory over the Boilermakers.
``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.'
Perhaps a little less after what he did to a home-state school Tuesday - connecting on 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.
To the Buckeyes and their fans, who have watched Thomas pile up more than 1,000 points in 2 1/2 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.
Yes, the Buckeyes wanted to make amends for an embarrassing 19-point loss Saturday at Illinois. Coach Thad Matta was so dismayed with what happened over the weekend, he even 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 (7-8, 1-2) couldn't keep up with Thomas' strong start or the Buckeyes' supporting cast.
The Boilermakers' missed free throws and layups and failed opportunities around the rim didn't help, either. They were led by the Johnson brothers, Terone, who had 18 points and six rebounds, and Ronnie, who had 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists. A.J. Hammons finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
It wasn't enough to avoid a second straight loss to a Top 20 team since last week's upset of No. 11 Illinois, and coach Matt Painter didn't need much time to figure out what went wrong against Ohio State.
``We didn't want him (Thomas) to get off to that kind of a start, obviously,' Painter said. ``He's a tough matchup for most people, including us, and he got them going and they were just quicker to the basketball in the first half.'
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 of folding and 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 had a chance to get 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.
``We just didn't put the ball in the basket,' Painter said. ``But we had the ball where we wanted it to be. 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.'
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.'
The Associated Press News Service
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