Ohio State got absolutely killed on its home court yesterday, falling by 24 points to Big Ten Champion Wisconsin on Senior Day. The Buckeyes looked pretty bad live and I can’t imagine it translated any better on TV. The Badgers were the better team yesterday and proved it – emphatically.
If the aftermath of that bloodbath felt foreign and confusing for you, there’s a good reason why. This doesn’t really happen to Thad Matta.
Matta has lost a total of nine conference games by double digits at home in his 11 seasons as the Buckeyes head coach and the loss to Wisconsin is by far the worst such defeat in his tenure.
Matta was left grasping for answers as to why the Buckeyes came out so flat against the Big Ten Champs because, like you, he isn’t used to seeing this type of performance in conference play on Ohio State’s home court.
“Yeah, obviously I want to go home and take a look at it,” the coach said. “I don’t know. I don’t know if we were, I don’t think we were nervous. Honestly we had one of the greatest practices I’ve ever had in March the other day and I actually went home and slept pretty well and saying like, ‘I think we’re going to play.’ But for whatever reason that didn’t happen.”
No, no it didn’t. Instead the Buckeyes played poorly, a fact compounded by the excellent play of Wisconsin. The result was a 72-48 loss in which Ohio State led for just 58 seconds.
Matta isn’t used to answering questions about home blowouts as he has largely avoided them in his time in Columbus. While the loss to Wisconsin was the worst Big Ten game a Matta team has played at home, it was also the third-worst defeat to a conference team regardless of location. The last time that Ohio State was beaten that badly by a conference opponent was a 25-point loss at Purdue on Feb. 28, 2009.
“Defensively, we weren’t communicating at the level we needed to be communicating at,” Matta said. “It’s not like we were doing something that we just put in, but we were tight-lipped. Usually when we are playing we are talking and we’re moving. They kind of had their way. When you play a team like Wisconsin and they chew the clock and chew the clock and score, it can be deflating. We talked about that going in like, ‘Hey, it’s the last 10 seconds of the shot clock, they are going to score, they are very, very good offensively, but then we got to pick it up and go back down.’ We couldn’t get that juice going about us.”
That lack of juice resulted in a 24-point humiliation to No. 6 Wisconsin on the Buckeyes home court, the seventh time Matta has lost a conference game by 20 or more points. Four of those have come against Wisconsin. The last such defeat came in February of 2013 and the Buckeyes responded with 11 straight wins including a Big Ten Tournament championship and a run to the Elite Eight.
While a similar performance may seem unlikely in the wake of the worst conference home loss of the Matta era, as the coach is fond of saying, anything can happen in March.