Relying almost solely on a starting lineup dubbed "The Iron Five" for the number of minutes they have logged this season, the No. 9 Buckeyes used their speed and athletic ability to mount a second-half comeback. But when it came to crunch time, those minutes showed and No. 4 Purdue held on for a 60-57 victory.
The loss snapped a nine-game conference winning streak for the Buckeyes, who entered the evening one half-game behind leader Michigan State and one half-game ahead of the Boilermakers.
After having trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, OSU (20-7, 10-4 Big Ten) relied almost exclusively on junior guard Evan Turner to pull them back in the game. After pulling to within two points at the midway point of the game thanks largely to Turner's ability to drive the basket, suddenly the shots started coming from further away from the basket.
OSU's next seven shot attempts were jumpers. Just one of them went in, and in the process Purdue increased its lead to eight points, 58-50, with 3:07 remaining.
After the game, the Buckeyes denied that fatigue played any factor in their shot selection down the stretch.
"They were good shots," Turner said. "A couple of them rolled around the rim and the ball just didn't go in. The ball didn't go in and that happens."
Purdue guard Chris Kramer saw it differently. The Boilermakers used nine players, while OSU used six. All five Buckeye starters played at least 31 minutes, and the four wings went the distance.
"I think there was definitely some aspect of we were more fresh in the later part of the game," said Kramer, who played 36 minutes. "A huge key for us is having that deep bench and being able to go seven, eight, nine deep, but they kept battling."
And still, the Buckeyes had a shot to win it.
Purdue (22-3, 10-3) led 60-53 with 1:11 remaining when guard E'Twaun Moore got some help from the Value City Arena rims and converted two free throws, but OSU's Dallas Lauderdale tipped in a William Buford miss to cut it to five with 59 seconds remaining.
OSU immediately fouled Purdue guard Chris Kramer, who missed the front half of a one-and-one with 58 seconds left. Turner pushed it up the court and hit a jumper at the 47.9 second mark to pull OSU within three, and the sellout crowd of 19,049 was roaring.
Rather than foul, the Buckeyes manned up and forced Moore to miss a jumper with eight seconds remaining. This time, a streaking Buford started to drive the lane and draw contact but instead had his shot rejected by Kramer. The ball landed in the hands of OSU's best shooting threat: junior guard Jon Diebler.
The Buckeyes dribbled around for the final few seconds before Diebler sprung free and found himself with a wide-open look near the top of the circle. Having gone 2 for 5 from deep on the night, he fired.
The shot was dead on but long, and the high rebound that ensued when the ball hit the back of the iron allowed the final horn to sound before it came back to earth.
"I got a good look and I should've knocked it down," Diebler said. "They made shots. We didn't. There's really no excuses."
OSU head coach Thad Matta said he could not have drawn up a better play had he called a timeout. Purdue head coach Matt Painter said he thought his team was headed to overtime for the third straight season in Columbus.
After scoring a career-high 32 points in the last matchup between the two teams, Turner led all scorers with 29 points on 11 for 21 shooting. Buford added 11 – all in the second half – and Diebler had 10 to pace the Buckeyes.
Purdue's JaJuan Johnson led his team with 24 points after being held to four the last time these two teams met. Moore had 15 and reserve Keaton Grant finished with 13 after scoring 11 in the first half.
OSU went into the half trailing by 13 points, and the fact that it was even that close was almost solely due to the play of Turner. The Buckeyes were 9 for 24 in the half (37.5 percent), but Turner was 6 for 13 (46.2 percent). Turner had nine of the team's final 12 points of the half and assisted on the other basket – a three-pointer from junior guard Jon Diebler.
It was the only OSU assist in the first half compared to 10 turnovers. The Buckeyes entered the game averaging 11.3 giveaways per contest.
Purdue opened the game on a 7-0 run before Turner broke the ice with a putback on a shot by junior center Dallas Lauderdale that was rejected by Purdue's JaJuan Johnson. He would score on OSU's next possession as well to pull the Buckeyes within three points, but they would not get that close for the rest of the half.
The Boilermakers came up with three key plays in the half that kept the momentum in their favor. After Turner converted a three-point play to make it 20-12 Purdue with 6:59 left, reserve guard Keaton Grant connected on a three-pointer in front of the OSU bench as he was fouled by Diebler.
He converted the free throw to push his team's lead back to double digits at 24-12. Turner countered with a drive to cut the deficit to 10 points, but Purdue struck back on its next possession.
After reserve guard Lewis Jackson missed a jumper with the shot clock winding down, Purdue's Robbie Hummel corralled the offensive rebound in the paint and kept the possession alive. A few seconds later, junior guard E'Twaun Moore buried a wide-open three-pointer to make it 29-14 and the crowd started to grow restless.
The final came in the final minute of play. After reserve John Hart missed a jumper with 45 seconds left, Johnson came up with the offensive rebound over Turner and quickly put it back in while drawing the foul.
That set the halftime score at 36-23.