An eight-game winning streak against Purdue. A 19-game conference winning streak. A seven-game road winning streak.
Ohio State entered Mackey Arena with all these streaks intact, but 21 turnovers and an energetic Boilermaker team sent them back to Columbus needing to start anew. Purdue (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten) used some clutch foul shooting and took advantage of a Buckeye team that had a tough time hanging onto the ball and came away with a 75-68 victory in front of a sellout crowd.
Trailing by a game-high 10 points with TIME remaining, OSU (12-4, 3-1) managed to whittle that down to three points with 29 seconds remaining but could not finish the comeback. With Purdue ahead 70-60, the Buckeyes started chipping away with two free throws by sophomore guard P.J. Hill. Purdue guard Chris Kramer hit one of two to push the lead back to nine, but the Buckeyes would use two free throws by senior guard Jamar Butler, two more by freshman guard Jon Diebler and a tip-in by freshman center Kosta Koufos to pull within three points at 71-68.
But Purdue freshman guard E'Twaun Moore hit two free throws to push his team's lead back to five points and Butler's subsequent running shot attempt was blocked, effectively sealing OSU's fate.
Despite the comeback, the Buckeyes had their chances in the final minute. Hill's two free throws came after he grabbed an offensive rebound after freshman guard Evan Turner missed two attempts of his own from the charity stripe, but perhaps most crucial was a turnover committed by Koufos underneath the Purdue basket.
With the Boilermakers leading 70-64, freshman swingman Scott Martin went to the line and promptly missed both free throws. Koufos grabbed the rebound but could not completely corral it, and his attempt to dribble the ball forced him to dribble on the baseline and give the Boilermakers the ball.
An athletic steal by Hill prevented Purdue from scoring to further the lead, but the Buckeyes lost precious seconds off the clock that could have helped them complete the comeback.
"I thought we had a nice comeback," OSU head coach Thad Matta told the OSU Basketball Radio Network. "We got the steal and it goes off our hands, the rebound goes off our hands. That wasn't the game, don't get me wrong. We've got to keep building. I'm the one guy who has been saying all along that we've got to get better and we do."
Holding a seven-point halftime lead, the Buckeyes were knocked on their heels as Purdue opened the second half with a 10-0 run that began with a trey from Moore that banked off the glass and through the net, perhaps setting a tone for the second half.
During the run, the Buckeyes missed five shots and turned the ball over twice. It would become a recurring theme for OSU, which committed 20 turnovers that the Boilermakers turned into 22 points.
However, Purdue itself committed 18 turnovers that the Buckeyes converted into 14 points.
Both teams traded the lead during the second half and the Buckeyes led 53-51 at one point, but an 8-0 answering run by Purdue put them ahead for good. That Boilermaker run was aided by three more OSU turnovers and saw the Buckeyes rushing several of their shots.
"We had some golden opportunities and, for whatever reason, we couldn't convert them," Matta said. "We weren't really able to get into the flow of our offense."
After spotting the Boilermakers a 6-0 lead, the Buckeyes opened up a four-point lead at 14-10 thanks in large part to Butler. Of OSU's first 14 points, 12 came courtesy of three-pointers taken by the senior guard.
Purdue would adjust in the half and make it more difficult for Butler to get open from beyond the arc, but he still finished the first half with 16 points. In addition, the Boilermakers applied more pressure for the entire length of the court, helping to slow Butler down.
The home team cut the lead to one point at 28-27 thanks to a 7-2 run aided by two OSU turnovers, but the Buckeyes used two Lighty free throws, a layup by Butler that saw him go coast-to-coast and a Butler basket after a Matt Terwilliger miss to push the lead to a game-high seven points. During the run, Purdue missed all seven of its shots and turned the ball over once.
The teams would trade baskets and head into the locker room with OSU leading, 36-29.
The score could have been much higher if not for some sloppy play on both sides. OSU committed 10 first-half turnovers, while the Boilermakers gave it back nine more times. The Buckeyes maintained the lead by out-shooting Purdue, 43 percent to 32 percent.
Butler led the Buckeyes with 26 points, while Koufos added 12 and Turner had eight. Purdue was led by junior guard Marcus Green, whose 22 points were one off his career high and made him the first Boilermaker to score 20 or more points this season. Sophomore guard Keaton Grant added 14 and Moore had 11.
The road does not get any easier for the Buckeyes. Next up is a road contest Tuesday night against No. 6 Michigan State, a team that had beaten Purdue by three points at home earlier in the week.