Now in his 14th season as a Division-I head coach, Thad Matta has learned to take a big picture approach with each of his teams. So while the Buckeyes' 62-55 win over Illinois on Jan. 23 may have snapped what was the program's first four-game losing streak in six years, the OSU head coach also isn't discounting his squad's stellar start to the season, which saw the Buckeyes reel off 15 consecutive wins.
Matta is hopeful that this next month will be filled with more success than the last, which saw the Buckeyes drop games to Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska in the span of 13 days. Ohio State's losing streak was highlighted -- or low-lighted -- by an abysmal 40.2 percent shooting clip, which only compounded the problems that came along with 64 combined turnovers.
Overcoming adversity, however, is nothing new to the OSU program. Two years ago, the Buckeyes dropped three games in a four-game stretch in February before advancing all the way to the Final Four, and last season Ohio State bounced back from a similar skid that was punctuated by a 22-point loss at the hands of Wisconsin by reeling off 11 straight wins and making it to the Elite Eight.
And while this year's woes may have come earlier than the ones of yesteryear, Matta likes how his team has responded. Even before they beat the Fighting Illini last Thursday, the Buckeyes showed their head coach enough promise for him to know that the season was far from a lost cause.
"Obviously losing can cause adversity," Matta said. "I liked how this team came back to practice. I like how they've wanted to do a little bit more. So much is still to be told with how much we still have to play."
For Buckeyes freshman forward Marc Loving, the four-game losing streak was certainly an adjustment. In fact, OSU's four-game skid doubled the worst that he had endured not only during a storied prep career at Toledo's St. John's Jesuit High School, but in his entire life.
"From that experience, it's been a humbling one, because I really realized the amount of talent that's in this conference," Loving said. "Basically you have to go into each game with the same mindset -- that you can't take anyone lightly."
That lesson may ring especially true tonight, when Ohio State will welcome Penn State to Value City Arena for a 7 p.m. tip (Big Ten Network).
In the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes will be facing a team with a 10-10 record and a 1-6 mark in Big Ten play. But despite Penn State currently standing in last place in the league, Matta sees a squad with plenty of talent, specifically in guards D.J. Newbill (17.2 points per game) and Tim Frazier (16.5 points per game).
"They've been in every single game that they've played in this season. They've had some of the craziest losses that I've seen," Matta said. "Frazier and Newbill have shown, not only this year but throughout their careers, that they can go into an arena and get 30 (points) on you."
Following their meeting with the Nittany Lions, Ohio State will venture out on a brutal two-game road trip that will include games against No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 15 Iowa. As opposed to a week ago, however, the Buckeyes have a winning taste back in their mouthes, which could make a big difference in where this team stands in just a few weeks."
"It got us back to a little bit of a good feeling inside," Matta said. "It had been a week or two since we had this feeling. I've always said this -- if you've never been inside of a winning locker room or inside of a losing locker room, you have know idea what coaching and athletics are all about."