WEST LAFAYETTE — A.J. Hammons got the message after coming off the bench for six straight games.
He has to play harder. He has to become more of a factor. He has to be more critical of his own play.
On Tuesday, Purdue's sophomore center did all of it. He had 18 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks and four assists in what may have been the best all-around game of his college career in a 78-69 loss to No. 3 Ohio State.
Yet Hammons believes his sub-par shooting night and too many turnovers were part of the problem.
"I think I played OK," Hammons said, noting he accounted for four of Purdue's 12 turnovers. "Just too many turnovers and not finishing. I was 6 of 16 from the field, that's terrible."
Still, Hammons did a little bit of everything against the unbeaten Buckeyes. He drew fouls, made 6 of 8 from the free-throw line, set picks and protected the rim. His point total was a season best and his rebound and assist totals were both career highs. Plus, he avoided foul trouble.
Ronnie Johnson added 16 points, and Johnson's older brother, Terone, had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
That wasn't good enough for the young Boilermakers (10-4, 0-1), who shot just 41.8 percent from the field and were 3 of 14 from 3-point range.
"I thought he did a good job of staying in the game, playing without fouling," said coach Matt Painter, Hammons' harshest critic. "He passed the ball, he got blocks. I think this was the first game we've done a really good job of getting the ball to him in a position to score."
The difference was experience.
The Buckeyes' LaQuinton Ross finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, both career-highs, and Shannon Scott added a career-best 18 points and the two juniors accounted for all of the points in a decisive 10-2 second-half run.