During Ohio State's 81-54 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Friday it was clear that JaQuan Lyle was frustrated.
When the freshman point guard was pulled by head coach Thad Matta after called for a charge with 2:19 left in the first half he slammed a water bottle to the floor on the bench, causing a delay in the game as the liquid was cleared up and was good for a bench warning for the Buckeyes. Early in the second half Matta pulled his star from the game -- a player that the night before put up 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists -- and laid into Lyle, offering an impassioned speech right in his ear for all the of the national TV audience to see.
After the game, Lyle made it clear that his frustrations were all with himself.
“As you all can see, we’re 30-some games in and the same old me. I wasn’t ready to play this game," Lyle said when asked int he post-game locker room about the talking to from Matta. "It was a hard hit on the team. He chewed me out and I deserved it.
“Coming from him, it’s March, could have been part of one of the biggest games of our careers thus far and I came out lack of effort, lack of heart, lack of passion, lack of intelligence and, I mean, played bad.”
Lyle finished the loss with 10 points and five turnovers with only one assist just one night removed from a scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds and five assists in a win over Penn State.
While the confrontation between Matta and Lyle was far from the first between the two this season, the coach said, it was the most public and the most heated. Though it came from a place of love.
“We’ve had a few of those over the course of the season," Matta said. "As you saw last night he has the capability of being a heck of basketball player and the focus wasn’t where it needed to be and I tried to kind of get him out of it.”
When Lyle is playing to his potential, and playing within the constructs of Matta's system, Ohio State is a far better team. That just didn't happen with enough consistency this season as the Buckeyes are almost certainly destined for the NIT. Going forward there is plenty of room for growth from the Buckeyes, a team that will not lose a scholarship player from this year's team barring any transfers, and that growth has to start with Lyle.
To his credit, the point guard owned up to that after the game. He said he let the officials get in his head and let one play carry over to the next. That process resulted in emotional outbursts from the young player and Lyle knows he has to grow from it.
"We have a great relationship," Lyle said of he and Matta. I can take that because I know deep down inside he’s caring for me and he wants the best for me. I took it in. it was just embarrassing for myself because he deserves more for me and I just let him down today.
"He pulled me aside and chewed me out for probably three, four minutes and everything he said made perfect sense and I mean, I took it in, and it’ll never happen again.”