Buckeyes Looking for a Fight

Coming off a highly successful season last year, the Buckeyes are having a hard time showing they can be a contender in 2008. They'll try to get back on track against the Gophers on Saturday.

As the season continues to circle the drain, the Buckeyes have yet to find anyone ready to step up and fight. Instead, their biggest leader has run out of answers.

Tuesday's 72-69 loss to Indiana marked the fifth in the last seven games for the Bucks, whose NCAA hopes have all but been extinguished by the late season tailspin.

Team leader Jamar Butler was recently benched for what he deemed "personal reasons," presumably for his repeated outbursts at teammates over recent weeks.

He has plenty of reasons to be upset. The Buckeyes are 0-9 against teams with an RPI of 40 or better. They're 1-6 in games decided by seven points or fewer — and five of those losses have come against teams in the RPI's top 40.

So many near misses are the reason Butler called a players-only meeting this week, in which he did most of the talking and the message was simple: believe.

They're running out of time. Entering Saturday's game at Minnesota, the Buckeyes are 17-11 and will now need a strong showing in the Big Ten tournament to bolster their resume and give themselves any chance at a successful March one year after playing for the national championship.

INDIANA 72, OHIO STATE 69: Kosta Koufos scored 21 points, 18 in the second half, but the Buckeyes lost for the fifth time in seven games after falling behind by 13 in the first half.

Ohio State got the deficit down to two with under five minutes to play, but couldn't come all the way back against Indiana, which was playing its first home game since the resignation of Kelvin Sampson.

Evan Turner had 13 points off the bench for Ohio State, while Jamar Butler and Othello Hunter each scored 12.

NOTES

  • Ohio State has been just good enough to lose in big games this season.

    That was the case again Feb. 24, when the Buckeyes failed to score in the last 3:15 and lost to Wisconsin 58-53 at home, further jeopardizing their chances of gaining a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

    Ohio State is 1-8 against ranked teams this season and 0-9 against teams now in the top 40 of the RPI.

    "I've looked at that," coach Thad Matta said. "Some of the plays that have gone against us, the other teams have made the big plays. We just, for whatever reason, haven't been able to make that one play. I don't know particularly the reason that is."

    Ohio State has been to the NCAA Tourney each of the past two seasons and advanced to the final last season before losing to Florida.

  • Ohio State officials are considering reducing the allotment of student tickets to home games in the future because many of them are not being used this season. Though the Buckeyes have sold out their last five games at Value City Arena, there have many empty seats in the student sections.

  • Ohio State has lost eight consecutive games to ranked teams, its longest streak since 1997-1998.

  • Jamar Butler was back in the starting lineup against the Hoosiers after he did not start over the weekend against Wisconsin. It was the first time Butler did not start since the first game of his sophomore year. Coach Thad Matta called the benching "my decision," and Butler said it was for personal reasons.

  • Kosta Koufos has scored at least 18 points in three of the last five games. While he admittedly is not a strong interior player, Koufos had arguably his best game of the year against Indiana.

  • Evan Turner had 13 points off the bench against the Hoosiers, a big boost for a team that receives little bench help. Turner has scored in double figures in three of his last four games.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Othello Hunter, F David Lighty, C Kosta Koufos, G Jamar Butler, G Evan Turner. Key Subs — G Jon Diebler, F Matt Terwilliger.

    IN FOCUS: At this point, the Buckeyes' season is a salvage operation. They'll be hard-pressed to win any of their final three regular-season games; their best shot is at Wisconsin.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We need to get a lead late in the game. It always seems like we're playing from behind," — coach Thad Matta on Ohio State being 1-6 in games decided by seven points or less this season.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Ohio State 65, Northwestern 47

    Michigan 80, Ohio State 70

    Wisconsin 58, Ohio State 53

    Indiana 72, Ohio State 69

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Minnesota, Saturday, March 1

    vs. Purdue, Tuesday, March 4

    vs. Michigan State, Sunday, March 9



  • Gopher Illustrated Top Stories