The Buckeyes (11-1, 1-1 Big Ten) built a 17-point lead over host Indiana on Saturday, but eventually fell to the Hoosiers, 81-79.
The Boilermakers (6-7, 0-2) are undefeated at home this season (6-0). They are coming off of a 68-65 loss at Michigan on Saturday.
Purdue was dealt a blow earlier this season when its top player, senior forward Karl Landry, decided to redshirt due to lingering affects from offseason knee surgery. Through five games this season, the 6-7 Landry was averaging 15.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
In his absence, center Matt Kiefer has picked up the slack. The 6-10 senior is averaging a team-best 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.
This is the first year at the helm for Purdue head coach Matt Painter. The former Southern Illinois head coach served as Gene Keady's top assistant last year and is running basically the same offensive and defensive system that Keady did.
"Yeah, I think it is," OSU coach Thad Matta said. "I don't know Matt well. He coached here against us last year. But I think it is kind of the same style of basketball. They seem to be running a lot of the same stuff, so we've got a pretty good feel for what they want to do."
Purdue has struggled this year. But the Boilermakers are a different team at home and could give the Buckeyes a good test.
"You know when you go on the road it's going to be a tough environment," Matta said. "As I tell our guys, ‘You have to be eight points better.' I think that our guys are getting that understanding. We're 2-1 in what I consider three pretty tough places to play and knowing that Wednesday night is going to be pretty much the same thing.
"Our big thing is that I think there's only been one road team to win in the Big Ten this year and that tells you a lot about our conference and how tough it is. As I told the guys after the Indiana game, we have to re-group, we have to get better and get ready to go again on Wednesday."
Matta is still licking his wounds from the tough loss at IU, but he knows it's time to turn the page.
"I think looking back at the Indiana game, we got beat by a great basketball team," he said. "We had a shot to win it, but that one is behind us. We had a great workout (Monday) and we'll have another one (Tuesday) and see what happens at Purdue."
The No. 19 Buckeyes are one of the surprise teams of college basketball this season. Few in Ohio are surprised, but on a national scale, fans aren't used to seeing OSU with a ranking next to its name.
The Buckeyes' intense attitude and work ethic are two reasons why this year's team has been successful up to this point.
"I like the fact that I think they are a competitive group of guys," Matta said. "I think they care. I think their demeanor is good, I think their humility is good, I think that they know we can play better basketball and that's evident by the way they come in and practice every day. I love their work ethic. I think our attention to details on the small things is getting better."
Senior guard Je'Kel Foster continues to lead OSU in scoring with 15.6 points per game. The 6-2 senior is shooting 84 percent from the free throw line, 62 percent from the floor, and 54 percent from 3-point range.
Senior center Terence Dials has really picked up his play recently and is averaging 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds.
But in the loss to Indiana, Dials was hampered with foul problems throughout the second half. He picked up a cheap one with 1.2 seconds remaining in the first half (his second foul of the game) and was not on the floor as much as he would have liked in the second half.
Following the game, Dials took sole responsibility for the loss, despite scoring 25 points.
"Well, I like the accountability," Matta said. "By no means did Terence Dials lose the game. I mean, if Terence doesn't play, we didn't have a shot to win the game. I think that him recognizing that when he's in foul trouble, we're in foul trouble, is very important for this team. But no, I wouldn't want him to take full responsibility for it. But at the same time, it's good to see the responsibility and a guy stepping up and saying, ‘I could have done something different.' As a coach, you want guys thinking the game. After a win or loss, you want them thinking, ‘What could I have done better?'"
Yes, Dials has been getting called for some touch fouls this year. But at certain points of certain games, Dials might have to just back off and not even put the officials in a position where they could make a call.
"I think you've got to look at it and hope like crazy that they're learning it," Matta said. "Some things that he did were instinctive and you can get away with for six months in the offseason. And now when you have officials, you can't do it. You have to be disciplined."
The Players' Take
Sophomore Matt Terwilliger has quickly become a fan-favorite with his putback dunks, athletic ability and all-around game.
The 6-8 forward is averaging just 3.0 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, but he's one of the most popular players on the roster from the OSU fans' point of view.
"That's something that I appreciate, but I really don't hear the crowd all that much," Terwilliger said. "That's something that's always been a thing of mine. I don't really hear the environment when I'm playing."
Terwilliger is debunking a popular myth. His 34-inch vertical leap takes most everyone by surprise, including Big Ten officials. They are not expecting him to be able to block shots and he has been getting called for some questionable fouls this year. He also had a clean block during the Indiana game which was ruled goaltending.
"I'm kind of recognizing that – that people aren't expecting me to block these shots," Terwilliger said. "They're calling fouls, or goaltending, but I'm going to keep doing it. They're either going to keep calling it, or realize that I can block some shots."
Terwilliger did not play much as a freshman last year. In fact, Matt Marinchick beat him out as the top post player off the bench. But this year is a different story. Terwilliger is Dials' backup and is more than holding his own.
"It's a little bit getting an opportunity, but more hard work," Terwilliger said. "Coming in last year, I didn't realize how hard you have to work on this level. But sitting on the bench, I realized it and I worked really hard this offseason so I could contribute in any way I can."
Terwilliger is averaging 13.7 minutes per game, good for eighth on the team.
"I'm really pleased with the amount of minutes that (Matta) has been giving me," Terwilliger said. "I like my role and I think I'm playing a lot. Now it's on me to get more production out of those minutes."
Terwilliger is looking forward to going on the road and facing Purdue.
"Purdue is a good team, especially at their place," Terwilliger said. "We're focused on this game and trying to bring back a win."
Foster also warns that Purdue is better than its record indicates.
"They're a hard-playing team," Foster said. "They play together, they're well-coached. They're going to give it everything they've got and we have to match their energy and just try and out-play them. Out-tough them. It's hard to win on the road in the Big Ten, but that's what we're trying to do."
Foster would prefer to be playing in the friendly confines of the Schottenstein Center, but he doesn't mind playing on the road.
"Well, to me, basketball is basketball, whether you're on the road, or at home," he said. "Of course here we have great fans, but on the road everyone is against you. So, it shows you what kind of team we have when a team can come together and get a win on the road."
NCAA Investigation Inches Along
Ohio State is still waiting to hear back from the NCAA regarding its investigation of improprieties that occurred during the Jim O'Brien era.
The Buckeyes issued a self-imposed one-year ban from postseason play last season. This year, very few expect the NCAA to hand down another postseason ban. But the waiting game is not for the faint of heart.
"I haven't heard a word since I left Indianapolis. The gag order is definitely in place," Matta said.
Do the OSU players and coaches even talk about the situation?
"No. We really don't," Matta said. "It's almost the mindset I've taken is, we're going to put ourselves in a position to get there and if it would be taken away again, we'll have to deal with it at that point. But the only thing we can control is playing good basketball and trying to put ourselves in a position to – if we're fortunate enough – to go to the NCAA Tournament."
The Buckeyes definitely have the makings of an NCAA Tournament team. In fact, it would take a complete collapse in the Big Ten season for them not to make the cut.
"I think we can be," Matta said. "It's still a little bit too early to tell. To this point, we've done everything we could possibly do to put us in that position. Now, with two months left in the season, you have to continue. I think that's the big challenge for us."
The players definitely feel that they are on track to be NCAA Tournament worthy.
"Of course I do," Foster said. "The guys, we work hard every day. I think we deserve to go to the NCAA Tournament."