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Ohio St.-Purdue Preview

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Coach Thad Matta is curious to see what’s next for an Ohio State team that’s won three in a row and has returned to the Top 25.

Coming off back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, the No. 20 Buckeyes look to avoid becoming the third straight Top 25 team from the Big Ten to lose at Purdue on Wednesday night.

Ohio State (17-5, 6-3) was ranked as high as 12th this season but hadn’t been in the poll since losing 69-66 at Indiana on Jan. 10, beginning a 1-2 stretch. However, the Buckeyes are back in the rankings thanks to a season-high three-game winning streak that includes home victories over the then-No. 23 Hoosiers and then-No. 16 Maryland by a combined 36 points.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get on a daily basis,” Matta said after Thursday’s 80-56 win over the Terrapins. “To turn the corner of 6-3 (in league play), from where we were, we doing a pretty good job right now.”

Matta is eager to see if his squad is capable of continuing that progression.

“What do we do next? Do we get complacent?” said Matta, whose Buckeyes have shot 53.6 percent in the last three games.

“The biggest challenge we face right now is to keep getting better.”

His players believe they are up to that challenge.

“I think the losses that we had at the beginning of the year made us who we are now,” said star freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, who is second in the league with 19.4 points per game and has averaged 24.2, 9.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in the last five.

“I think that everybody brings what they are supposed to bring to the table and there’s no turning around. We just keep going forward from here and try to keep getting better every day.”

Ohio State has split its four Big Ten road games, needing overtime to win at Minnesota by two Jan. 6 and at last-place Northwestern by the same margin Jan. 22. The Buckeyes shot a combined 51.8 percent in those victories, which were followed by losses to Indiana and Iowa, respectively — games that saw them make a combined 36.2 percent from the field.

They’ve won six straight against Purdue (14-8, 6-3), including the last two at West Lafayette.

The Boilermakers, however, have won three straight, the first two of those being home victories over then-No. 25 Iowa on Jan. 24 and then-No. 22 Indiana last Wednesday.

Purdue shot a season-high 58.7 percent in the 83-67 win over the Hoosiers. It limited the two ranked opponents to a combined 35.4 percent shooting and has held all but one of its Big Ten foes to fewer than 70 points.

The Boilermakers last beat three straight ranked opponents at home in 2010-11.

“Hopefully getting back-to-back Top 25 wins will give us some confidence that we can compete with teams that I feel are NCAA tournament teams,” said coach Matt Painter, whose team followed those two home wins with a 68-60 victory at Northwestern on Saturday.

Purdue guard Rapheal Davis (10.8 points per game) scored a combined 43 against Iowa and Indiana and has averaged 18.0 points and 54.5 percent shooting in the last four contests.

Russell has scored 60 points in the Buckeyes’ last two road games and had 33 in the most recent one against the Wildcats.

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