WEST LAFAYETTE - In the Big Ten Conference, there is no substitute for big game experience.
When it became winning time during the second half of Tuesday afternoon's game in Mackey Arena, unbeaten and third-ranked Ohio State exhibited the poise and play-making ability that a lineup comprised of two seniors and three juniors should, especially on the road.
The Buckeyes (14-0) broke away from a tie at 46 for a 78-69 victory against an improving Purdue team that only wishes it had a lineup with that much experience.
Junior forward LaQuinton Ross had a monster second half to finish with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and senior point guard Aaron Craft was terrific with seven points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, no turnovers, four steals and a block.
While Purdue (10-4) countered with a terrific game from sophomore center A.J. Hammons with 18 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and five blocks, the Boilermakers inexperience showed several times in key points of the second half when Ohio State began to pull away.
Certainly, Purdue is a better team today than it was two weeks ago, but the growing pains that accompany youth still are evident for a team that missed countless opportunities at or near the rim Tuesday on its way to shooting 41.8 percent.
"I would say their experience was a factor, especially when we had several key opportunities in a row to convert and didn't," said Purdue senior Terone Johnson, who had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists. "There were just too many times there when we should have been plus-five instead of minus-five.
"We had chances, but there were too many times when we failed to contain the dribble, and then they were real patient."
The young Boilermakers played with effort and passion, but as Ohio State coach Thad Matta acknowledged, the Buckeyes experience of being in the big moment in the Big Ten was huge when the game was there to be won or lost.
"(Experience) is something we haven"t had a lot of the past two seasons," Matta said. "We talk about that with our guys that there is no drill you can run in practice to give guys experience.
"A lot of times you don't know what it's going to be like until you can get guys on the road. Down the stretch, our guys showed that experience that they have gained."
Purdue coach Matt Painter likes the strides his freshmen and sophomore dominated team has made, but he was quick to point out that despite doing many things well, this still was a loss. not only a loss, but a Big Ten home loss.
"They made plays," Painter said. "LaQuinton Ross had a great game, as did Shannon Scott. And Craft just affects the game in such a huge way without even scoring. All he wants is for Ohio State to win."
And the Buckeyes did just that, relying on their poise, experience and play-making ability in big games, especially games on the road, to improve to 14-0.
Meanwhile, this Purdue team still has a chance to be a very good one, but as Matta said, there is no drill in practice that can teach experience. Ohio State has a lot of it, and Purdue is in the process of acquiring it.