"I don't know about a quality win ... we just need a win, period," O'Brien told reporters shortly before heading off to West Lafayette last night.
It took Ohio State 20 games, but they finally have a quality win. The Buckeyes jumped on host Purdue 16-3 to start the game and, despite falling behind in the second half, rallied late for a 65-59 victory.
"We have said it for a couple of weeks, but we felt that eventually something good was going to happen," O'Brien told WBNS-TV. "We have been in a rut. Today, we talked about making our own breaks and not expecting it to happen on its own and that's what we did today."
Ohio State (10-10, 2-5) snapped a three-game losing streak. The Buckeyes also won their first game on the road in six tries and defeated a ranked opponent for the first time in four attempts.
In terms of a quality win, this was OSU's second victory against a team ranked in the top 100 in RPI. They also beat Villanova, but it was just a one-point victory at the Maui Invitational against a suspension-depleted Wildcats squad.
Tony Stockman led the Buckeyes with 17 points, five assists and just one turnover in 34 minutes. Stockman fed Terence Dials for what figured to be the biggest basket of the game.
With OSU trailing 58-57, Stockman drove the lane and found Dials coming down the baseline. Dials jammed the ball home and was fouled by Purdue's Ivan Kartelo. His free throw put OSU up 60-58 with 58.1 seconds left and gave the Buckeyes a lead they would never relinquish.
"We called timeout and we were pretty organized," O'Brien said of the key play. "We had a good idea of what we wanted to do. We were trying to get Tony free down the middle so he could create. Terence was alert and got where he needed to be. Tony got him going to the basket and he made the continuation play."
Dials added 15 points and eight rebounds, while J.J. Sullinger had 10 points and six rebounds.
Purdue (14-6, 4-3) endured a terrible shooting performance, making just 36.2 percent (17 of 47) of its shots for the game, including 6 of 22 in the second half.
"We knew we were not a good enough team to have just one defense that we could hang our hat on," O'Brien said. "We mixed our defenses because we didn't want anybody to get too comfortable against us. Sometimes that is effective."
The Boilermakers played without leading scorer Kenneth Lowe, sidelined with an elbow injury. David Teague stepped up and had a career-high 22 points and seven rebounds. Austin Parkinson added 10 points.
OSU got off to a great start as Dials scored the game's first six points before teammate Brandon Fuss-Cheatham scored on a drive for an 8-0 lead. Stockman hit back to back three-pointers and Ricardo Billings, who added seven points, scored on a tough drive to put the Buckeyes up 16-3 with 13:16 left in the first half.
Purdue gradually cut into the lead before going on a 10-2 run to close the half and cut the halftime lead to 35-33.
It seemed that the Boilermakers would show their class down the stretch as they finally grabbed their first lead on Teague's three-pointer that put PU up 43-42 with 11:10 left. A Teague jam put Purdue up 56-52 with 4:34 left.
O'Brien called a timeout and his team responded with a 13-3 spurt to close out the game. Billings made perhaps the biggest shot of his career on a three-pointer off a feed from Fuss-Cheatham in the left corner. That cut the gap to 56-55 with 2:43 left. Teague was then fouled and made two free throws for a 58-55 lead with 2:24 left.
Dials then appeared to have his shot in the lane blocked, but Sullinger grabbed the loose ball and banked it in to cut the lead to 58-57 with 1:51 left.
Purdue's Kartelo then traveled with 1:28 left, setting the stage for Dials' critical three-point play with 58.1 seconds remaining.
Now trailing 60-58, Purdue had two chances to tie but Brandon McKnight and Teague each missed shots. Stockman made four free throws and Dials added one in the final 26.1 seconds to cinch the victory.
OSU now hosts Northwestern Wednesday at 8 p.m. (ESPN-Plus).