Ohio State's Adventures 'Fun' If They Bring Survival, Success

Bruce Hooley

The uphill climb and plunging descent of a thrilling roller-coaster ride takes just a little bit longer than Ohio State sophomore Duane Washington needed to characterize the Buckeyes' entire season so far in just one word.

"Wow," Washington said, pausing for 11 seconds, before continuing with, "I would say, 'fun,' or either, like, um..."  pausing again for six seconds, "yeah, I would probably say fun, or another word for fun."

Tedious?

Frustrating?

Puzzling?

All seem applicable, but OSU won't embrace any of those adjectives because they convey equal portions of self-pity and desperation, neither of which the Buckeyes (16-8, 6-7 Big Ten) can afford with work left to do and ample time left to do it as Purdue (14-11, 7-7) enters Value City Arena for a noon Saturday tip. (Fox).

They all fit, although not all are embraceable because they convey some sense or self-pity or desperation and the Buckeyes (16-8, 6-7 Big Ten) aren't wallowing in any of that with work left to do and time left to do it as they approach a Saturday noon tip (Fox) against Purdue (14-11, 7-7).

A victory would elevate OSU to .500 in the league for the first time all season, introducing some light to what's been a dark, probing trek through the darkness of a difficult conference schedule with the hope of NCAA Tournament success on the other side.

The 9-0 start and No. 2 national ranking have given way to a successful, though sometimes desperate, effort to tread water amid injuries and assorted circumstances that have removed six rotational players from the lineup for at least one game.

Washington is one of those, as are fellow-starters Luther Muhammad, Kyle Young and Andre Wesson, occasional starter D.J. Carton and likely top reserve Musa Jallow, who's redshirting after ankle surgery.

So, it's been a bumpy ride, and not by design.

"I think ups and downs are a part of life," Washington said.

Asked if OSU's season has been dramatic, Washington said, "I wouldn't say, dramatic. Not for me. I'd just say definitely, fun...How good a team we were, (and) we're still a good team. We just went through a little skid where things got tough, which happens to everybody around the country. I feel like we're on the right path right now and we're just trying to take it game by game."

Befitting the Buckeyes season, their 72-66 win over Rutgers on Wednesday followed an eventual script, deteriorating from a 20-point blowout with 13 minutes left to a hanging-on-by-a-thread survival when the Knights finally missed a critical three-pointer in the final seconds.

OSU head coach Chris Holtmann came in after that blowout-turned-nail-biter and refused to obsess about the one that almost got away.

Given that commitment to enjoying success, however, halting, Holtmann was glad to hear Washington's characterization of the season so far.

As for why it took Washington so long to come up with a such a common answer, "Maybe he was thinking, of the politically-correct thing to say," Holtmann said. "But Duane speaks from his heart. I think it has been fun for him in a lot of ways. There have been a lot of really good moments...there's no question there's been some ups and downs and some trials that were a part of that."

Holtmann punted on the question that Washington pondered.

"I don't know if I have one specific word," he said. "I think it's still, two words, 'in process.' I think it's still in process right now. What will that be, what we're going to look like and what is going to be determined here. I try not to reflect back on the season until the story is finally written and stay in the moment as much as possible, because it can be overwhelming if you don't."

Washington eventually explained that his reason for pausing was more vanity than being vexed by the question.

"I was trying to think of another word for, 'fun,' " Washington said. "I was trying to think of a long word to make me sound smart."

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