Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta had another viewpoint of his team's 75-64 victory Thursday night against the Jaguars.
"You're (coming) off of finals and a nine-day stretch? That to me is not an excuse," he said. "Hopefully these guys get a little bit of a wakeup call and know teams are coming in here."
If the Buckeyes learned any sort of lesson from the IUPUI game, their first chance to show it will come this afternoon in the team's former home: St. John Arena. OSU tips today against Western Carolina today at 2 p.m. (BigTenNetwork.com) as it tries to improve to 8-0.
The question is how the home team will come out of the gate. The Buckeyes struggled to put the Jaguars away Thursday night and fell behind by a game-high nine points in the second half before rallying for the victory.
In the upset bid, IUPUI shot better than 50 percent from the floor. A number of those shots were uncontested. Offensively, the Buckeyes eventually turned to freshman Jared Sullinger in the paint and he finished with a freshman-record 40 points.
Until OSU started actively searching for the big man on each possession, the offense looked lethargic at times.
"You've got to give them a lot of credit," senior guard Jon Diebler said. "They came out and played with a lot of energy and made shots. At the same time I don't think we came out with the energy we needed to with nine days off. They played extremely well. We didn't execute the game plan as we should've."
The problems on the defensive end were the bigger concern. The Jaguars are the second team to shoot better than 40 percent against the Buckeyes this season, finishing at 51.0 percent (26 for 51). In recent games, it has been the defense that has paved the way to victory and not the offense. In no game was that more evident than a Nov. 30 road win at Florida State in which OSU won 58-44 but shot 32.2 percent from the floor.
Matta said he was disheartened by his team's reaction to being tested early by IUPUI.
"The disappointing thing is I don't think in the first half we ever drew the line in the sand and said, ‘We're going to make a stop,' " the coach said. "I don't think we were challenging shots like we needed to."
Said Diebler: "I don't think we played as hard as we could've. The one thing is we got a little down on ourselves. I don't know why. They made some tough shots and we were like, ‘Man.' That's when you really have to tighten up your defense and we didn't do that tonight."
When OSU began the second half against IUPUI, freshman point guard Aaron Craft had replaced senior power forward Dallas Lauderdale in the starting lineup. Matta did not make any substitutions in the final 20 minutes and later described Craft as the one Buckeye playing defense at times.
IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter said their hope was to force OSU to go without Lauderdale. He credited his team's open looks to its offensive spacing.
"We knew going into the game that we did not want Lauderdale in this game," he said. "We were going to attack him on ball screens. He was our primary concern. We figured the more he would play the better our chances to win. He had eight minutes. We really wanted to make sure he couldn't play in this game and that they would have to play small."
The Buckeyes will be facing a somewhat similar foe in the Catamounts. According to RealTimeRPI.com, Western Carolina was 269th in the nation in the ratings percentage index used by the NCAA Tournament committee to help select teams for the tournament as of Dec. 10. IUPUI checked in at No. 247.
If they are able to put together a solid effort on both sides of the ball, Diebler said he still likes the potential of this squad.
"We were struggling on offense the last few games," he said. "It would be scary to think if we could put the two together."