Courtesy of Sarah Cunningham, Purdue Exponent, Purdue University
For as deafening as Purdue’s Mackey Arena can be, it wasn’t enough to unnerve Ohio State’s men’s basketball team.
Rowdy Boilermakers fans donning same-color shirts in sections of the stadium to create a gold and black design were silenced as the Buckeyes stole a road victory, 74-64.
Junior forward Deshaun Thomas said it didn’t faze him.
“I didn’t hear the crowd. I didn’t really care about the boos,” Thomas, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., told the Associated Press. “That’s about being on the road.”
OSU staved off the hostile environment at Purdue, but life away from the confines of the Schottenstein Center has otherwise been inhospitable to the No. 15-ranked Buckeyes.
OSU’s first road game was a loss to then-No. 2 Duke in late November. That game could be viewed as a moral victory because a young OSU team only fell short in the game’s waning minutes.
That notion likely no longer exists, though. Not after Saturday’s 74-55 shellacking against Illinois. And recent history suggested OSU would falter again on Tuesday. Additionally, the Boilermakers beat the same Illini team that easily dispatched the Buckeyes. on Jan. 2.
Against unranked Purdue (7-8, Big Ten 1-2) squad, OSU hardly looked like the team that was rocked by Illinois mere days earlier.
After the game, Matta said he spent that time in between contests preparing his team for what would inevitably be “coming down the pipe.”
“I thought we had an element of composure about us … we had to have it,” Matta told reporters after the Purdue victory. “This was a team win as you could possibly have.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We came out with toughness and our offensive execution was going well. We knew we needed to do that after the Illinois game and that’s what we did,” Thomas told reporters. “We came out with toughness and executed really well.”
While it’s probably an exaggeration to call Tuesday’s game a “must-win,” had the Buckeyes faltered, it could have had a lasting effect on the psyche of a team that doesn’t always seem secure of itself.
The win against the Boilermakers didn’t answer all of the questions about OSU – it won’t exempt them from the many deficiencies they’ve shown against quality opponents. That’s an issue that could reappear throughout conference play, but Tuesday felt like a step in the right direction for a team that’s lacked the fortitude to play its best in the most critical of times.