Ohio State stuns No. 2 Purdue in first game after coaching change

The Jake Diebler era could not have started much better for Ohio State men’s basketball.

The Buckeyes knocked off No. 2 Purdue 73-69 Sunday afternoon in the first game of Diebler’s stint as interim head coach in place of Chris Holtmann, who was fired Wednesday morning after nearly seven seasons at the helm.

Bruce Thornton scored 22 points and Jamison Battle added 19 — all in the second half — as the Buckeyes improved to 15-11 and won their fifth Big Ten game of the season.

Zach Edey led four Boilermakers in double figures with 22 points.

Battle hit a trio of 3-pointers early in the second half as Ohio State opened up a 12-point lead, but the Boilermakers came back to tie it at 65 with 1:39 to go.

Battle broke the tie with a jumper at the 1:19 mark then added two free throws with 34 seconds left.

Purdue would not get closer than two points again, and Battle iced the game with two more free throws with 1.2 seconds on the clock.

As fans rushed the court, the CBS television cameras caught Diebler pausing to absorb the moment then embracing Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith.

Smith said earlier in the week he decided to make the coaching change for the players.

He hoped to get a spark for the final six games of the regular season, and that was the case Sunday.

The Buckeyes have no hope of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but a winning season is still on the table with a strong finish.

They go to Minnesota on Thursday night then play at Michigan State next Sunday.

After home games against Nebraska and Michigan, they complete the regular season at Rutgers then head to the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis on March 13.

Ohio State entered the day in 13th place in the conference standings, 1.5 games behind Penn State and Maryland.

The 37-year-old Diebler is in his eighth season on the Ohio State staff. He started as a video coordinator for Thad Matta then returned as an assistant for Holtmann in 2019 and was elevated to associate head coach in 2021.

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