Ohio State's buzzer-beater loss to Jaden Ivey and Purdue on Sunday stung the Buckeyes after they'd come all the way back from an 20-point deficit but such is life when Ivey's pulling the trigger late.
Despite the loss, Chris Holtmann's squad stands at 6-3 in league play, 1.5 games back of Wisconsin and Illinois, with 11 regular season conference games to play.
With a home tilt against Iowa lurking Thursday night, here's another edition of Five Things, focused on key data points behind where Ohio State's been and where it hopes to go.
OHIO STATE SITS SUB-.500 VERSUS QUAD 1 OPPONENTS
The Buckeyes had an outside shot to even their record against Quad 1 opponents but winning in West Lafayette was always a long shot.
Down by nine at the half, a no-show start through the first five minutes of the second half helped Purdue to a 52-32 lead. Ohio State would charge back, outscoring the Boilers 46-29 over the final 15 minutes but it wasn't enough.
The loss, Ohio State's third-straight against Quad 1 foes, dropped the Buckeyes to 3-5 versus such schools with the three wins coming against NET No. 42 Seton Hall, No. 13 Duke and No. 21 Wisconsin.
Ohio State isn't alone among its conference brethren. Of the eight Big Ten teams ranked inside the NET's top-50, only Purdue (6-2) and Wisconsin (7-3) boast winning records against Quad 1 opponents.
Michigan State and Indiana sport .500 records at 3-3 and 2-2 respectively, but the the likes of Ohio State (3-5), Illinois (2-3), Iowa (2-5) and Michigan (1-4) are sub-.500-to-date.
If you're interested, Wisconsin leads the nation (through Sunday's games) with those seven Quad 1 wins.
BUCKEYES BEATING UP TEAMS OUTSIDE NET TOP-80
Despite some tough games from a few programs, Ohio State is a perfect 10-0 against opponents ranked outside the NET's top-80.
Four of those games came against league foes and while Northwestern and Penn State stayed competitive, Ohio State generally handled opponents seen as inferior.
The home contest with Penn State saw the Nittany Lions hang around despite playing without their leading scorer as Ohio State failed to record a field goal over the final five minutes but victory was seemingly never in doubt.
Most recently, the Buckeyes led Minnesota by just two on the road in Williams Arena but used a 23-15 double-double from E.J. Liddell and a 48-22 edge on the glass to coast to a 75-64 win. So how many more of those extremely winnable regular season games remain?
CAN OHIO STATE WIN FIRST LEAGUE CROWN UNDER HOLTMANN?
With that 6-3 record in conference play, Ohio State currently sits 1.5 games back of both first-place Wisconsin and Illinois (8-2), a half-game back of Michigan State and a full game behind Purdue to slot fifth in the standings.
Assuming the Nebraska game is made up in mid-February as expected, the Buckeyes have 11 regular season games left in which to vault up the standings if they're to earn Holtmann's first league title - regular or postseason - in Columbus.
|OPPONENT||NET RANK||OVERALL / B1G RECORD||DATE|
|IOWA||23*||14-7, 4-6||FEB. 3|
|MARYLAND||100||11-10, 3-7||FEB. 6|
|@RUTGERS||113||12-8, 6-4||FEB. 9|
|@MICHIGAN||47||10-8, 4-4||FEB. 12|
|MINNESOTA||86||11-7, 2-7||FEB. 15|
|INDIANA||29||16-5, 7-4||FEB. 19|
|@ILLINOIS||15||15-5, 8-2||FEB. 24|
|@MARYLAND||100||11-10, 3-7||FEB. 27|
|MICHIGAN STATE||18||16-4, 7-2||MAR. 3|
|MICHIGAN||47||10-8, 4-4||MAR. 6|
It's frankly tough for me to see Holtmann breaking through and capturing a regular season crown with six of the remaining 11 games coming against NET top-50 teams and already having to make up some ground. The good news however is four of those matchups occur in Value City Arena where the Buckeyes boast a perfect 9-0 record overall including 3-0 in league action. Oh, and Iowa's No. 23 NET ranking will drop as soon as updated after last night's loss at Penn State.
If Ohio State can protect home court on Thursday versus the Hawkeyes and post victories in very winnable games against Maryland and at Rutgers, it would be 9-3 with a huge roadie in Ann Arbor on February 12. Win that one too and things could definitely get interesting.
BRANHAM COMING UP B1G
If Ohio State does make a run at a league title, you can bet freshman Malaki Branham will be central to that success.
Branham continues to evolve as he gains experience at the collegiate level and last Sunday in West Lafayette was the latest example as he tossed in 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including nine straight points late in the second half as Ohio State staged a furious comeback.
Ohio State's second-leading scorer at 10.6 points per game on the season, Branham has come into his own through the balance of the league schedule-to-date, averaging 14.7 points per Big Ten contest.
Again focusing on conference action, Branham is second on the team in field goal percentage (51.1%), 3-point field goal percentage (44.8%) and free throw attempts (34).
His 20 points versus Purdue marked the seventh time in nine league games in which he's reached double figures and he's shot over 55% in five of those contests.
It wouldn't be a Five Things without me mentioning his elite college-level midrange game and what I really like is he's deferring to teammates less and less as the season wears on and his confidence soars.
Holtmann's squad struggled taking care of the ball over its first 14 games, turning it over 12.9 times per contest to rank No. 159 nationally. In a two-game stretch against Florida and Duke, they logged 30 total turnovers.
Over the last four outings however, the Buckeyes averaged just 7.3 turnovers per night with a high of nine in five-point home win over Penn State. In its two most-recent games - on the road against Purdue and Minnesota - Ohio State turned it over only six times in each contest.
The four-game stretch of valuing the ball improved Ohio State's turnovers per game from 12.9 to 11.7 and vaulted their national ranking from No. 159 to No. 69. Nice.
In Ohio State's four losses prior to Sunday's defeat at Purdue, the Buckeyes averaged 16.8 turnovers per game.
Speaking of the Purdue game, it marked E.J. Liddell's first turnover-free game all season and his first since last February 25th when he scored 18 points in a four-point loss in East Lansing.
Branham's handles are worth a mention here as well. He's turned it over just once in his last five games while averaging 29.2 minutes.