Buckeyes, Boilermakers Prepping For Rematch

In one of the most exciting games of the Big Ten season, Ohio State overcame a historic first-half performance by Purdue's Robbie Hummel and pulled out a victory. Wednesday, these two games will rematch in a game that will help determine who will win the conference crown.

Not much had gone right for Ohio State until it faced Purdue on Jan. 12.

The Buckeyes entered the contest against a Boilermakers team ranked No. 6 in the nation that had just suffered its first loss of the season and appeared primed for a victory on its home court. OSU, on the other hand, was limping in at 1-3 in conference play and still struggling to adapt to having junior Evan Turner back in the lineup after the point guard had missed six games with a back injury.

What happened that night in Mackey Arena might have saved the season for the Buckeyes.

OSU head coach Thad Matta said the game sparked his squad "Probably quite a bit because it was a road win for us and got us rolling in the Big Ten, but I think that going into that game we were still a team that was getting back into the flow."

The game featured two of the Big Ten's top players putting up career-best nights, each in a different half. Purdue guard Robbie Hummel found the open spots in OSU's zone defense and shot the Buckeyes out of it by connecting on eight first-half three-pointers.

That performance in the first half alone tied a school record for most treys in a game. As a result, the Boilermakers headed into the locker room with a 41-29 lead and the crowd of more than 14,000 roaring.

But despite plenty of assurances to the contrary, Purdue head coach Matt Painter was worried. He looked at the stats and saw a team that was leading despite having committed nine turnovers and one that went 5 for 16 (31.3 percent) from the floor when shots were taken by guys not named Hummel.

His misgivings grew with less than 10 minutes remaining and his team clinging to an 11-point lead when junior guard E'Twaun Moore missed a pair of free throws.

"At that point I said to one of our assistants, ‘Man, we've played bad. I can not believe we're up like this,' " Painter said. "We continued on that trend."

The score was 56-45 in favor of the home team at that point. The Buckeyes would close the game on a 25-14 run to pull out the victory. In the process, they forced three Purdue turnovers including two on back-to-back possessions that helped draw OSU to within three points with 3:15 remaining.

The turnovers came after the Buckeyes instituted a full-court press that Purdue proved ill-equipped to handle.

"Sometimes turnovers aren't the worst thing in the world if you double dribble, you travel, you throw it out of bounds because they don't score the basketball and you can go down and stop them still," Painter said. "But when you turn it over and it leads straight to a dunk, that takes the wind out of your sails. They had a couple plays where they turned straight steals into baskets."

The pressure helped Turner score 23 second-half points to finish with a career-high 32. It proved that he was fully back after suffering two fractured vertebrae following a failed dunk attempt Dec. 5 against Eastern Michigan.

"Evan hadn't practiced (much)," Matta said. "When he played in the Indiana game (six days earlier) we had a light practice the night before and he went through that. Then we had another light practice going into the Minnesota game (three days later) so I think he had a couple practices leading up to (the Purdue game)."

In that contest, OSU was unranked and sat ninth in the Big Ten. Wednesday's game will feature two teams both nationally ranked in the top 10 and fighting for a share of the league crown.

The Buckeyes are ranked ninth in the country and are in a first-place tie with Michigan State at 10-3 in the Big Ten and 20-6 overall. Purdue is right behind at 9-3 in the conference and 21-3 overall.

Although the game could go a long way toward determining the conference champion, Matta said his players are not looking at it that way.

"I think if Wednesday night was the last game of the year and that was for all the marbles, I think they would think about it," he said. "I know as the head coach of this program I haven't even gone down that line to give you a quantified answer."

Painter said the Buckeyes do not look much different than they did the last time he had to prepare for them.

"They look like the same team to me," he said. "I thought they were real good then and I think they're real good now. Are they playing better now? No question about it. I think they're just more efficient offensively now and defensively they've got a couple different ways to go."

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