Heading Into The Hornet's Nest

Alley-oop dunks are staples of highlight reels, and when B.J. Mullens threw one down against Purdue at the end of the game the crowd at Value City Arena erupted. Now as Ohio State heads to the road to face Purdue, the Buckeyes might be feeling some repercussions from that play.

Every team goes into a game wanting to defeat its opponent, but that might be taken to a different level today when Ohio State heads into Purdue.

Riding a two-game winning streak, the Buckeyes hosted the Boilermakers for a Saturday evening game televised nationally by ESPN. When the game began, the visitors were without preseason conference player of the year Robbie Hummel, who was a medical scratch from the lineup.

Despite Hummel's absence, Purdue used a dunk with a little more than a minute remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime knotted at 64. In fact, the Boilermakers had the last chance to win in regulation but guard Lewis Jackson's shot attempt rimmed out in the final second.

From there, the Buckeyes doubled up Purdue by a 16-8 margin in the extra stanza to pull out a victory that seemed to assuredly punch their trip to the NCAA Tournament.

But as they were pulling away from the visitors, the Buckeyes put an exclamation point on the victory with 20 seconds remaining. Ahead 76-68, OSU pushed the ball up the court after a missed jumper by Jackson. Buckeye swingman Evan Turner grabbed the defensive round and fired it to guard Jon Diebler, who knifed toward the basket.

Rather than just lay the ball in or dribble the final seconds off the clock, Diebler tossed it high off the glass and a trailing B.J. Mullens arrived to throw down a powerful dunk, bringing the crowd of more than 17,000 to its feet in the process.

The play seemed to add insult to injury for the Boilermakers, who continued to foul the Buckeyes until the final buzzer despite the game being out of reach.

Now nearly a month later, the Buckeyes head into what figures to be a hornet's nest as they face a Purdue team that dropped a road contest to Michigan two days prior.

Turner said he feels the Boilermakers will be gunning for the Buckeyes, but not any more than any other team does on a given night.

"If you get beat by a certain team and you have an opportunity to avenge that loss, you're definitely going to try it," he said. "I just know they're going to protect their home court and play hard. They have a lot of pride."

And what of that alley-oop?

"That slipped out of Jon's hand and B.J. caught it," Turner deadpanned before cracking a smile. "That's pretty much what happened."

After the first meeting between the two teams, OSU head coach Thad Matta said he had discussed the incident with Diebler. Purdue head coach Matt Painter downplayed the incident, saying his team would draw more fire from being out-rebounded by a 36-19 margin than it would from one play in the final moment of the game.

"That's where the game was lost," he said. "If you need extra motivation, then you're probably in the wrong locker room."

Last season, the Buckeyes took a 3-0 conference record to West Lafayette and blew a seven-point halftime lead en route to a seven-point loss that was the first game of what would become a three-game losing streak. Historically, Purdue leads OSU in Mackey Arena by a 52-23 margin.

It is hard to view this latest incident as anything but a situation where the Buckeyes might have angered a sleeping giant that has been waiting for its chance for revenge – although OSU junior guard P.J. Hill characterized the Boilermakers as a stoic team.

"The one thing I like about them is they're really poised," he said. "They don't show any facial expressions throughout the game. They just seem to be level throughout the whole game.

"Maybe that is a good thing, or maybe that can hurt you. You need to show some passion sometimes, but they look real poised out there. You can never tell if they're mad or not. "

When the ball tips at 4 p.m. in Mackey Arena, the Buckeyes figure to find out.

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