Buckeyes Looking Forward, Not Back

One of the more impressive conference streaks in recent memory for Ohio State came crashing down Wednesday night with a home loss to Purdue. Although the Buckeyes were not happy with how they played in the game, the team's focus has now shifted to Sunday's road contest against Michigan State.

After literally having Evan Turner in the driver's seat for most of the season, his head coach has now metaphorically put him there as well.

Wednesday night, No. 9 Ohio State dropped a three-point home decision to No. 4 Purdue. In the process, the Buckeyes lost the chance to say they control their own destiny in a Big Ten race that has its top five teams heading into the weekend separated by two games.

Up next is Sunday's road contest with No. 11 Michigan State, the team who has held at least a share of the league lead for the entirety of the season. While talking with his star player after the loss to the Boilermakers, OSU head coach Thad Matta made it clear where he wanted Turner's focus.

"Coach Matta asked me why the windshield is way bigger than the rearview mirror," Turner said Friday. "I said I don't know, and he said that's because what's behind you doesn't really matter. It's what's in front that counts. I think that's a really good analogy."

The Buckeyes had an NCAA-mandated day of rest following the Purdue loss, but Matta said he kept in touch with his players via phone calls and text messages. The next day, the feeling he got from them on the off day was re-affirmed during practice: that OSU was willing to buy into the sentiment he had shared with Turner.

What he did not discuss was where the Buckeyes sit in the conference standings with four games to go.

"The only thing I've addressed is how we play better," Matta said. "We know this: with the games we have remaining on our schedule if we don't play well we're going to be in for long nights. I'd rather keep it at that from my perspective."

Still on the docket is a road game against cellar-dweller Penn State and home games against Michigan and Illinois.

"We can't control what happened in the past," junior forward David Lighty said. "We let one go (against Purdue), but we're still in the race so we have to worry about the future. Take it one game at a time. We start with Michigan State, we get a good win there and we're still tied for second in the Big Ten with three games to go. There's still a lot of games to be played."

That does not mean the Buckeyes will not spend any time thinking about what went wrong against the Boilermakers, however. That OSU was able to have a chance to send it to overtime with a last-second shot was a testament to how well the team played after falling behind by as many as 15 points in the first half.

Afterward, Turner said he felt some of his teammates were not mentally ready to go from the opening tip. The challenge is to make sure that does not happen this time.

"We all know what's at stake," Turner said. "We know we've got four more games, four more games to make a good resume and get better as a team. We can only control stuff that we can control and we're going to try to control our effort. You can't sit there and pout about what happened in the past."

Building a good resume and winning a conference title are two separate goals, but both Turner and Lighty said the focus is still on capturing a Big Ten championship.

"That would mean everything," said Turner, who has often said that he wants to be remembered as a player who brought a title back to OSU. "If you don't win, you're not anything. That would mean a lot."

Lighty said the goal is for this game to be the start of another winning streak for the Buckeyes, who are 5-6 away from home this season including two games played on a neutral court.

"It would be a good win for us to start up another win streak as well," he said. "It's going to be another tough game. We all know that. We can't come out like we did against Purdue. If we play like we've been playing on the road we'll be fine. We've just got to get it done."

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