After Ohio State lost by 20 points on the road to Connecticut on Dec. 12 the Buckeyes reeled off a seven-game winning streak.
Thad Matta and the Buckeyes (11-5, 3-1) are hoping their latest embarrassing road loss – a 25-point defeat at the hands of Indiana Sunday – is followed by a similar performance. If that’s to be the case it will have to start tonight at 6:30 p.m. against Rutgers.
“Honestly, we’ve got to move forward,” Matta said. “As I told our guys that Sunday’s game has absolutely no bearing on Wednesday’s game. Same thing as when you win seven games in a row leading into that game, no game you won before won you the next game. It’s all based on going out and performing and playing. Why did we not play our best? I’m not exactly sure. Thinking back, I’ve been through a few of those games before.
“That stuff happens and our biggest focus in how we addressed it was we looked at the negatives, but we looked at positives. These guys have to understand that probably wasn’t our — I know that wasn’t our best basketball and guys didn’t play as well as they’re capable of playing for whatever reason. I do think, Indiana, looking at it, they played an incredible game. We move on.”
They move on the Scarlet Knights (6-11, 0-4) who are making their first trip to Columbus. Rutgers is coming off a 90-56 loss to Nebraska Saturday and is still seeking its first conference win.
Rutgers is led by Corey Sanders and his 13.3 points per game while Deshawn Freeman (13.1) and Mike Williams (12.2) also average double figures. Though the Scarlet Knights match Minnesota for the worst overall record in the Big Ten, Matta said the team needs to be prepared for the variety of gears that Rutgers will bring to Value City Arena.
Because of the multitude of looks that the Scarlet Knights will bring, Keita Bates-Diop said the defensive communication will have to be far better than it was against the Hoosiers.
“They run a lot of sets, a lot of screens so talking out screens will be a big thing.," the forward said.
On the other end of the floor the Buckeyes are hoping for a better start than the 18 first-half points they managed against Indiana. One positive to take from that game, however, was the play of JaQuan Lyle. The freshman point guard scored 24 of his 29 points in the second half.
Despite his scoring prowess, the Buckeyes had no hope of a comeback after falling behind by 30 in the first half. Matta said he needs the young team to respond, and as much as he can challenge them to do so, it comes down to the players themselves.
“I think that’s kind of the responsibility of the guys and being a youthful basketball team it’ll be interesting to see how we respond; do we hold onto it? I’ve told them as their coach, I’m onto the next one and hopefully they’ll do the same,” Matta said.
“I don’t fear that we’re not going to come out and play. No, these guys will come out and play. You hope that — this is kind of life’s lessons and it just doesn’t always go the way you want it to go. Stuff happens and we just have to deal with it.”
For better or worse, the Buckeyes are familiar with dealing with a big road loss this season. Jae’Sean Tate said that the experience of the big loss to the Huskies should help them when rebounding from the Indiana loss.
"Of course it stings at first, but we have been in this situation before, this season against UConn,” Tate said. “We showed that we can fight back, still have toughness. We just got to keep doing that, try to go out there and play with as much heart and execute at a high level. We didn’t do that last game but we've got to make sure we continue to do that."