Ohio State found that out the hard way on Wednesday night against No. 4 Purdue. One game after shooting 53.1 percent and assisting on 20 of 26 baskets while blasting Illinois on its home court, the Buckeyes seemed to have anything but flow on the offensive side of the floor in the marquee matchup against the Boilermakers.
While Purdue had three scorers in double figures early in the second half and survived an off night by All-Big Ten forward Robbie Hummel, the ninth-ranked Buckeyes struggled out of the gate. Ohio State had only 23 first-half points, its second-worst showing of the season, and never quite got in gear on the way to a 60-57 loss to the Boilermakers in front of the season's first sellout crowd in Value City Arena.
"No question, they were very good (on defense)," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "Some of the plays we made starting the game – the passes just weren't as sharp as we needed to be. We were not as in synch as we needed to be against a team like that."
The final numbers show an offense that oftentimes didn't look like it knew what it trying to accomplish, as OSU shot 41.7 percent (20 for 48) with 14 turnovers and only six assists. At one point in the first half, the Buckeyes had coughed up the ball 10 times without an assist, though OSU did get one before the break when Evan Turner got the helper on Jon Diebler's three-pointer with 1:03 to play.
When confronted with the fact that his team couldn't find any helpers early, Matta admitted that he was surprised.
"Yeah, no question about it," Matta said. "That's what I was saying, in the timeouts, we just didn't have an efficiency about us offensively that we needed in a game like that."
The Buckeyes' only offense in the early going seemed to be Turner, who took 11 of the first 21 shots as the rest of the team looked static around him. He seemed to find easy access to the lane before finishes that were sometimes academic and other times acrobatic, but guards David Lighty and William Buford found nothing but a "Road Closed" sign when they tried to pierce the heart of Purdue's defense.
"Evan all night was getting into the paint," Diebler said. "As far as Will and Dave, that's Purdue. They play great defense. Everyone knows that. They play great team defense with how they pressure they ball. They really know their personnel and how to help on it. They just clogged up the middle for Dave and Will."
That was the plan, Purdue head coach Matt Painter said.
"(Turner) can create for himself and create for his teammates," he said. "Anytime that happened with Lighty and Buford, we just tried to keep it in front of us. We wanted to knock Buford out of his rhythm, even though he knocked down some shots in the second half."
Turner was his usual self, making 11 of 21 buckets with five helpers and five turnovers on the way to a game-high 29 points, but Lighty couldn't seem to get going. On the game, the OSU senior finished 1 for 6 from the floor with four points, an assist and three turnovers. The center combo of Dallas Lauderdale and Kyle Madsen struggled, as Lauderdale was 1 for 2 with two turnovers and Madsen didn't record an offensive stat.
In the first half, Turner's only help was Diebler, who ended with 10 points including seven in the first 20 minutes. He also made a three-pointer to start the scoring for the Buckeyes in the second half before Buford – who finished 4 of 12 from the floor – started to become part of the offense.
Turner's work inside seemed to free things up for the sophomore from Toledo Libbey, and he looked as though he was heating up when he scored seven straight points to cut Purdue's lead to two at 48-46.
However, just as quickly as the Ohio State offense seemed to be finding its rhythm with another scoring threat working into the rotation, the Buckeyes started settling for jumpers instead of slashing. After OSU made it a two-point game, the next seven possessions ended with jumpers, only one of which went in the basket. Though Diebler and Turner both had shots go in and out, Turner's made 18-footer provided the only points in the stretch.
"We were taking what the defense gave us," Diebler said. "Some of them went in and out. It was just one of those nights. There have been nights where we've been shooting 60, 70 percent from the field. Tonight, that wasn't the deal."
In the meantime, Purdue stretched its lead to 56-48, a run that ended when Turner found a cutting Buford for an easy layup with 3:37 to go.
By then, the offensive struggles proved too much to overcome, a fate sealed when Diebler's last gasp three hit the back iron.
"We weren't as sharp as we needed to be, and I'm sure Purdue had a lot to do with that," Matta said. "I thought they were really effective the whole game."