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Published: Sunday, 2/23/2003

Darby comes up big His clutch play saves Buckeyes

BY DAVE WOOLFORD
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ohio State's Brent Darby (4) goes up for a jump shot against Purdue's Matt Kiefer. Darby scored 16 points. Ohio State's Brent Darby (4) goes up for a jump shot against Purdue's Matt Kiefer. Darby scored 16 points.
TERRY GILLIAM / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - Brent Darby.

Tired, struggling, frustrated Brent Darby.

But in a ragged game that sometimes looked like a series of college basketball outtakes, the Ohio State senior played the starring role as the Buckeyes defeated Purdue 52-44 yesterday in Value City Arena.

Darby scored seven of OSU's final nine points after the Bucks led just 43-42 in this make-or-break contest that almost broke Darby.

Darby scored 16 points to lead Ohio State, but made only 5-of-17 field-goal attempts. Sean Connolly added 15 points, making 5-of-7 3-pointers, including his first five attempts. Forward Matt Sylvester added 11 while 7-0 center Velimir Radinovic was held scoreless, missing a slam with OSU leading just 41-38 and five minutes remaining.

“It's been hard on Brent and he did not have a particularly good game,” Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said after his 350th career victory, and 115th in 183 games at OSU. “He was really disappointed in his own play. We had to pick him up at every timeout and I kept telling him, `You can still make us win in the end if you stay with us.'”

The Boilermakers - shooting 29 per cent with 17 turnovers and the loss of guard Kenneth Lowe with a dislocated left shoulder in the first half - were still very much in contention until Darby made a somewhat amazing layup with 1:36 to play to make it 45-42.

Darby, who leads the Big Ten in minutes played per game at 38, got the ball at the Purdue end of the court with eight seconds remaining on the shot clock. He drove almost the length of the court for the bunny that made Purdue coach Gene Keady hopping mad.

Asked if his team was “Down” following its second straight loss that dropped the 24th-ranked Boilers to 16-8, 8-5, Keady boomed, “Why would they be down on themselves? Send them off to Afghanistan and they'll get fired up real quick. They're the luckiest men in the world to have a scholarship to a Big Ten school.”

Darby followed his layup with a pair of free throws to make it 47-42 with 44 seconds to play. It was OSU's first made free throws in the game.

“We know we have to win out if we want any chance of making the NCAA tournament,” an exhausted Darby said after another almost 40-minute performance. “It feels good to get a `W,' but we've got three games left to win, so we're not too excited about this one.”

It took one more hustle play to seal this deal for the Bucks and that was turned in by guard/forward Connolly. On a loose ball rolling over midcourt toward the OSU basket, Connolly outfought Purdue guard David Teague as both dived to the court. Connolly managed to get possession and passed the ball to backup guard Emonte Jernigan for another layup with 29 seconds to play.

Jernigan's driving layup allowed the two teams to finally combine for more field goals than turnovers, the final tally 35 to 34.

“I thought our guys played terrific,” O'Brien said. “They played very, very hard, as did Purdue.

“I was especially pleased with how we guarded. To hold those guys to 44 points and under 30 per cent from the floor was a great effort by us defensively.”

Darby made three of four free-throw attempts to close out the scoring for Ohio State, 13-11, 6-7.

“If you would have told me going in that Velimir was going to play 36 minutes and not score a point and you're still going to win, I would have thought you might have a few screws loose,” O'Brien admitted. “Nevertheless, when you've got three others who step up and get in double figures, that really helped.”



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