COLUMBUS, Ohio - The No. 9 Ohio State men's basketball team came close to seeing lightning strike twice in the same place at the feet of the No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers, but Evan Turner's game-high 29 points were not enough to erase a 15-point Purdue (22-3, 10-3) lead in the second half.
Ohio State junior Jon Diebler's three pointer did not find its mark as time expired as Ohio State (20-7, 10-4) saw its nine-game Big Ten Conference winning streak snapped in front of a sellout crowd when it fell to Purdue, 60-57.
The Buckeyes never led in the game as JaJuan Johnson led Purdue with 24 points including 10 of the first 16 Purdue points as the Buckeyes found themselves in a hole most of the way. Robbie Hummel was negated for most of the game with only four points and his first bucket coming at the 8:01 mark of the second half but Keaton Grant filled the void with 13 points off the bench.
Turner's 29 point night accounted for more than half of the Ohio State scoring with Diebler chipping in 10 and William Buford coming up with 11 points late in the game. David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale combined for seven points as the Buckeyes had four starters play the entire 40 minutes.
"We got ourselves into a hole and I thought Purdue came out and they made some shots," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "I told our guys that I thought we did a great job fighting back but when you are playing a great team like Purdue it is hard to climb that mountain to get back into it."
Despite a horrific start that saw the Buckeyes down by as much as 15 on several occasions and starting off the game with ten turnovers against zero assists the Buckeyes still had a chance to overcome a large deficit against the Boilermakers much like what they did in West Lafayette (Ind.) in mid-January. The Buckeyes cut the Purdue lead down to two points after a Buford long jumper at the 9:47 mark and gave the 19 thousand-plus fans something to cheer about.
The Buckeyes had a final run left in the tank and after a missed front end of a one-and-one by Chris Kramer Ohio State made its final push. Lauderdale grabbed the board and hit Turner who nailed a jumper to cut it to three with 47 seconds left to go. Ohio State was not forced to foul having it down to one possession and E'Twaun Moore wasn't able to nail a jumper at the eight second mark and the Buckeyes got into transition.
Buford looked as if he had a chance to drive to the hoop and instead opted to pull up for a jumper that was blocked by Kramer but Diebler was in the right spot and had a chance to play hero down three.
"I got a good look and I should have knocked it down and there are really no excuses," Diebler said. "The last five or six minutes we had some good looks and they made shots when we didn't. Last shot we scrambled with the ball and I ended up with it and I got a clean look and I should have made it. There is no excuse."
It was an all too vivid scenario for Purdue head coach Matt Painter who had seen his team lose the last two games in Columbus (Ohio) in overtime as the Boilermakers had previously never won at Value City Arena in the history of the facility.
"They recovered it and we were kind of scrambling right there," Painter said. "I thought we had it squared up and then Diebler kind of gets loose and I thought he had a pretty good look at it."
There was no thought of taking a timeout down the stretch and the Buckeyes were going to let things be decided in that final run of eight seconds.
"When the shot got blocked I saw Jon pick it up and Johnson was behind him out of bounds," Matta said. "I know this, I couldn't have drawn a play up to get a better look to get what he got there. It was a wide open 21-footer."
The shot did not go and the Buckeyes came up on the wrong end of a three point decision. The Buckeyes outscored Purdue by ten in the second half but it was too little too late.
"In the first half they took us out of our rhythm and we shot awful in the first half," Diebler said. "I think the second half there were times that we were executing as well as we did all year but when it all came down to it the start of the game killed us."
Turner agreed that the deficit was just too big of a hurdle to overcome despite the best efforts of the team including 16 second half points by Turner himself.
"In the first 20 minutes," Turner said. "I made some shots, some of us didn't have our heads right and we just didn't attack the way we were supposed to. We were digging our way out of a hole for most of the game. Against a top five team you can't really dig your way out of a hole, you have to be in the game the whole time."
Ohio State now falls half of a game behind Purdue and Michigan State in the Big Ten standings and things don't get any easier with Sunday's game taking Ohio State to East Lansing (Mich.) for the always daunting task of playing at the Breslin Center. The team will have to go back to the drawing board and learn from Wednesday's game rather than dwell on it if they want to stay in the thick of the Big Ten race for a top seed in the conference tourney.
"It's just one of those games," Diebler said. "I mean we're frustrated but it's not the end of the world."