March 13, 2014

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Every twist seemed to put No. 24 Ohio State on the verge of closing out Thursday’s Big Ten tournament game.

Every turn put the defending tourney champs right back on the verge of becoming the victim of a stunning first-round upset.

After LaQuinton Ross and Aaron Craft combined for nine points during a key second-half spurt, No. 24 Ohio State still needed Terone Johnson to miss a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to hang on for a 63-61 victory over Purdue.

“It’s finding a way,” Craft said. “It doesn’t matter how ugly a game is at this point, it’s about trying to find a way to keep playing and luckily we were able to do that again.”

The Buckeyes fouled Purdue’s Ronnie Johnson in the backcourt to prevent the Boilermakers (15-17) from even attempting a 3 that could have forced overtime.

Johnson made the first, missed the second and the Boilermakers were awarded possession on the rebound with 1.2 seconds to go after a lengthy replay review. Johnson’s older brother, Terone, got a good look from the left wing but the shot came up short and the fifth-seeded Buckeyes somehow survived. They’ll face fourth-seeded Nebraska in Friday’s quarterfinals.

“Hopefully those games that we played earlier in the year helped us get to this point, especially if we get in another game like that,” Craft said.

Ross finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, Craft added 16 points and Smith Jr. scored nine to become the 51st  player in school history with 1,000 career points. He is the 26th Buckeye with 1,000 or more points and 500-plus rebounds.

Few expected the short-handed Boilermakers (15-17) to be this competitive in their final game of the season.

Purdue, the No. 12 seed, is not eligible for the NIT and has already said it won’t accept a bid to a smaller tournament. But the Big Ten’s No. 12 seed showed some true grit.

Despite getting into early foul trouble, the Boilermakers hung around throughout the first half and only trailed 30-27 at halftime. And despite losing guard Sterling Carter with a season-ending injury to his right knee in late February and forward Jay Simpson with a career-ending heart condition last week, the Boilermakers refused to go away even after freshman guard Basil Smotherman needed help getting to the bench after hurting his right leg early in the second quarter.

Instead, the Boilermakers hung with Ohio State down to the final buzzer.

“We knew there was one second on the clock so I could have a dribble. I thought I had enough space to get the shot off to win the game. It looked good when it was going up,” Terone Johnson said. “I really couldn’t see if it went in or not, but I missed.”

A.J. Hammons finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, Ronnie Johnson had 12 points and Terone Johnson scored 10 in his final game with the Boilermakers. It was almost enough.

Craft and Ross started the key run and when ended the spurt ended with Sam Thompson’s alley-oop dunk, the Buckeyes led 59-54. Purdue answered with four straight points to make it 59-58 and were back within 61-60 when Hammons scored on a layup with 18.1 seconds left.

After the two missed free throws, the Boilermakers had one last chance but the Buckeyes hung on.

“It’s good to see us win one of these ugly games,” coach Thad Matta said. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted to today and give Purdue all the credit for that. (Our) guys made some plays down the stretch and we were able to get out of here with a win.”