For the fifth time this season Ohio State will take the floor looking to respond from a loss.
When the Buckeyes (4-5) take on Northern Illinois (7-1) tonight at 7 p.m., however, it will be the first time they are looking to recover from a completely disheartening loss.
Ohio State’s first four losses of the season came by an average of just six points, but Thad Matta’s team was thoroughly dominated by Connecticut last Saturday, never leading in the 75-55 loss and never being within single digits in the second half.
“We did do some decent things in that game, but it just wasn’t at the level we needed to do it,” Matta said. “They came out, they stung us, we fought back in it. Even in the second half I thought we did a very good job defensively of what we talked about at halftime. Shots started going down for us, we got some transition baskets, but down 12 we got the ball two times and had a couple turnovers and it was over at that point.”
The Buckeyes biggest loss came in their only true road game of the season and while the team is looking at the film from that game, Keita Bates-Diop said Ohio State is anxious to move on. It will do so with another group of Huskies tonight.
Northern Illinois has only suffered one loss, but that came against its only Power Conference opponent in Missouri, a 78-71 defeat Dec. 4. The Huskies will be trying to bounce back from that loss against the Buckeyes.
“No. 1 a very deep basketball team; they’re going to run 10 guys in. They’ve got size at all positions, they’re a veteran team,” Matta said. “They’ve got a good mix of inside-out guys that can stretch a defense. They’ve got guys that can drive it. They’re going to play hard, they rebound the ball really well and I think it’s going to be another great test for us.”
As the coach said, the Huskies have 10 players who average more than 10 minutes per game. They’re lead by Aaric Armstead who averages 12.6 points per game while Marshawn Wilson comes off the bench to score 12.4 points a contest.
Northern Illinois is coached by mark Montgomery, a Michigan State graduate who coached under Tom Izzo for 10 seasons, the last three as associate head coach. Matta said that he sees the MSU influence in the actions that the Huskies run.
That coaching legacy combined with a roster that includes seven players with at least three years of college under their belt makes Northern Illinois a difficult team to deal with, Marc Loving said.
“They play really hard,” the Ohio State junior said. “A team that plays hard you can’t come out soft, you can’t show any weakness because they’ll take advantage of it. Offensively and defensively they’re sound, they’re disciplined. We have to pay attention to that.”