Playing the nation's No. 6 team in the nation on its home court in Purdue, the Buckeyes rallied from 10 points down with about four minutes left and pulled out a crucial Big Ten victory. But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the situation is not that OSU found itself trailing in the second half but that it actually found a way to win this time.
While playing then-No. 6 North Carolina in mid-November, the Buckeyes trailed by 19 points with 10 minutes to play but rallied from there only to lose by four. Less than a month later, it was a 17-point road deficit against Butler in the final four minutes that saw OSU cut it to three in the final minute before losing by eight points.
It is for that reason – not the fact that junior Evan Turner is back in the lineup and fully healthy – that OSU head coach Thad Matta feels his team might have more confidence in itself tonight against No. 13 Wisconsin (8 p.m., Big Ten Network).
"We fought back hard but could never overcome it (earlier this year)," Matta said. "To get that, I hope we do have a little bit more confidence in who we are."
As for the difference between the Purdue win and the losses to UNC and Butler, the coach said it comes down to something simple.
"The ball went in the basket," he said. "I felt like probably the biggest thing was a couple key rebounds we got down the stretch. It didn't force our hand to go back and guard again. A lot of times when you're playing a team that's winding the shot clock down, you give up an offensive rebound, it can rock you a little bit of we've got to do this again and now 60 seconds has elapsed off the clock."
Against the Boilermakers, OSU shot 51.0 percent as a team and held a 34-26 rebounding advantage. Those figures were 43.3 percent and 37-33 and 49.0 and 40-27 against UNC and Butler, respectively.
Although they had been there before and fallen short, junior center Dallas Lauderdale said those games helped the Buckeyes believe in themselves against the Boilermakers.
"The attitude we had was basically we've been in this position before, being with North Carolina coming back and cutting that (deficit) down," he said. "It was a huge confidence builder, giving us the momentum and the confidence that we're able to come back from a lead like that. Down 13 or 10 points, we were saying there's a lot of time left, on the bench we were saying, ‘Guys just keep executing, keep your composure and keep playing tough.' That's what we did."
In addition, senior center Kyle Madsen pointed out that the game against Purdue was simply one the team needed to win after dropping three of four to open conference play.
"We all knew that we really needed to win that game," he said. "We were 1-3 in the Big Ten and 1-4 would've really hurt. Everybody was really focused on getting to 2-3. I think that focus and having been there before, that all adds up and it helps us and makes us feel a lot more comfortable in that situation."
Now the Buckeyes are hoping to carry that momentum over to tonight's game against the Badgers. According to Matta, Wisconsin has played the second-most games in the nation (27) against top-25 teams since the 2007-08 season began.
OSU leads that category with 30.
"Our guys are obviously accustomed (to it)," he said. "They're used to it. We've done this before. It's another great challenge."
These two teams opened up Big Ten play on New Year's Eve in Madison, Wisc., and the Badgers put up a demoralizing 65-43 victory against the Buckeyes. In that game, the Buckeyes were without leading scorer and rebounder Evan Turner. In this game, the Badgers will be without leading scorer and rebounder Jon Leuer as he battles an injury to his left wrist.
Without Leuer, Matta said Wisconsin still looks like essentially the same team but one that is a little more guard-dominant. That would seem to be a better matchup for a Buckeye team that essentially boasts a four-guard lineup at all times.
In addition, the Buckeyes could be playing in front of their first sellout crowd of the season. An OSU spokesperson said that around 1,700 tickets remained for the game as of Friday afternoon.
However, that does not mean the Buckeyes have forgotten what happened the last time these two teams faced each other.
"That team beat us by 22 points at their place," Matta said. "I wouldn't say that we've got great confidence going into this game from the standpoint of this is a team that beat us good."