Coach Bob Boldon set his hand on the scorer’s table, crossed his legs and shook his head. Ohio was leading Purdue 77-67 with less than two minutes to play, but he wasn’t happy.
The Bobcats were playing sloppy defense and running into foul trouble. Boldon needed it to stop. He huddled between his team and delivered a clear message.
“We look like horses--t,” Boldon said.
He was able to put his head down and laugh it off after Ohio’s 80-73 win over Purdue on Wednesday night at The Convo, but there was no doubt: the intensity was high.
The Bobcats haven’t faced much adversity throughout their undefeated start to the season, but they proved they can deal with it in convincing fashion by beating arguably the toughest opponent on their nonconference schedule. Wednesday’s win was the second victory Ohio has had over Purdue in the past two seasons.
“Adversity comes in different ways,” Boldon said. “This adversity came with a really good basketball team right in your face. Sometimes it’s travel, injuries or whatever, but this was purely just a good basketball team we had to deal with, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
The Bobcats held the lead for more than 30 minutes Wednesday, but there wasn’t a minute where the team wasn’t being tested. Amani Burke, last week’s Mid-American Conference East Division Player of the Week, committed three fouls in the first six minutes.
One of Ohio’s most consistent shooters was forced to take a seat, and Purdue led 17-15 at the end of the first quarter. The Boilermakers’ defense swatted six blocks, and the Bobcats’ offense was in unfamiliar territory — it couldn’t figure out how to move past a defense.
“That first quarter was tight and tough,” Dominique Doseck said. “It took some nerves. Purdue is a big school, and they were going to come after us.”
But Ohio turned the nerves and fear of its first loss into momentum and outscored Purdue 26-9 in the second quarter.
Ohio’s 41-26 halftime lead was lopsided, and it was back in familiar territory. If this was one of the Bobcats’ first six games, a blowout would be expected. The offense was going to dominate the second half, and the game was all but over.
Instead, the game turned into a test. Purdue dropped 28 points in the third quarter, and its offense fought back differently than any other team Ohio has seen this season.
Although the Bobcats’ lead never shrunk below eight points, the margin never really increased. It didn’t feel like it because Burke wasn’t alone in foul trouble. Doseck and Cece Hooks were reaching five fouls, too, and Ohio’s defense turned conservative.
Boldon’s team was on its heels. Doseck committed her fifth foul, and both Burke and Hooks were one foul away from joining her on the bench. But Boldon, feeling the intensity, needed his defense to step up.
The Boilermakers were another hot offensive run from tying the game late in the fourth quarter when Boldon called a timeout. Ohio was in the thick of its first intense ending all season, and Boldon wanted to emphatically ensure his team wasn’t going to blow it.
So, he tossed in a curse word or two to get his message across.
“(Purdue) is so good,” Boldon said. “You’re flirting with good players getting momentum and feeling good about themselves. ... They sure felt good in the second half, and that was our fault. They will capitalize on every single breakdown.
“And that’s too many points. It looks like horses--t.”
Two minutes later, Ohio overcame its biggest load of adversity yet. The foul trouble ultimately meant nothing, nor did the defensive breakdowns that nearly allowed Purdue to sneak back into the game. The Bobcats passed their test.
Ohio had its win, and it sent a statement to the conference, and maybe even the country, that this team is legit.