Accumulating a 2-5 record in the first month of 2014, the Buckeyes endured five losses in a six-game stretch and fell all the way from third to unranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The absence of success left OSU players with an unfamiliar feeling, which was palpable inside the walls of Value City Arena.
"A week ago, you come in there and it was like sad in there. You could almost put on some gloomy music in there," forward LaQuinton Ross said. "We was at our lowest point this season.
In just one week, however, the Buckeyes' playlist has been upgraded from depressing Drake to jubilant Jay-Z. Two wins on the road over ranked teams in Wisconsin and Iowa have left Ohio State players feeling some type of way about the remainder of their season, which continues on Saturday when the Buckeyes (18-5, 5-5) host Purdue (14-9, 4-6) for a 6 p.m. tipoff to be televised on the Big Ten Network.
"Winning cures all," Ross said. "In the weight room, in the gym, we go in and the mood is way better. In the locker room, everybody's laughing now."
Whether a smile will stay on the Buckeyes' faces will be dependent on how they fair with the Boilermakers, who are coming off of a triple-overtime win over Minnesota, which followed a four-game losing streak of their own. It was just three years ago that a battle between Ohio State and Purdue would have been viewed as a primetime matchup in not only the Big Ten, but the nation, but the Boilermakers have failed to maintain momentum since losing JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore to the NBA.
Ohio State has been a top-two seed in each of the past four NCAA Tournaments while Purdue hasn't finished higher than sixth in the Big Ten since the departures of Johnson and Moore in 2011. Asked what it takes to avoid such pitfalls, Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta couldn't pinpoint exactly what it takes to sustain consistent success.
"I don't know. I've thought about that a lot in terms of what it takes to be consistent. Obviously players have a great deal to do with that," Matta said. "I don't know if there's a formula, if you will, in terms of, ‘This is how you win a lot of games.' It's just so hard every single day."
Even if the Boilermakers' record is far from stellar, they still present a challenge for the Buckeyes, particularly in the form of 7-0, 251-pound center A.J. Hammons.
In the Dec. 31 meeting between Ohio State and Purdue, Hammons went off, scoring 18 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and forcing the Buckeyes' big men into foul trouble. OSU may have walked away from West Lafayette with a 78-69 victory, but they remember the damage that Hammons did to them on that day, and what the sophomore center is capable of doing again.
"A.J. Hammons is a great player. We really struggled against him," guard Shannon Scott said. "We know if we win this game, we have to contain him."
If the Buckeyes can do that, then the positive vibes -- and music -- should persist for Ohio State. But having played in the Big Ten, where they've endured losses to Nebraska and Penn State, the Buckeyes know that doing so will be easier said than done.
"We know where they're trying to go. We know how they're trying to go there with A.J.," Matta said. "He's obviously a very, very talented player. Doing your work as early as you possibly can and knowing that he's probably going to score some -- we can't give him anything easy. Let's make him earn the points that he gets."