After Ohio State’s 74-72 loss to Northwestern on Sunday it was revealed that the Buckeyes didn’t have the best of practices two days before that encounter with the Wildcats.
“I was very, very disappointed on Friday and let that be known,” OSU coach Thad Matta said Sunday after the game. “One of the guys said they got to look themselves in the mirror and we have to realize who we are and what we have to do every time we take the floor, be it practice or a game.”
Matta did not specify which player it was who spoke in front of the team after the defeat, but the anonymity was erased two days later.
“That was Kam (Williams),” Ohio State freshman center Micah Potter said Tuesday. “And it was definitely something that needed to be said.”
Williams explained that someone other than the coaches needed to speak up after the Buckeyes’ home loss to the Wildcats, which was the first in 40 years.
“I just felt like something had to be said after a loss like that,” the redshirt junior guard said Tuesday. “We didn’t play well at all and I just feel like someone beyond the coaches had to step up and say something. If that’s the role that I’m going to have to take going forward, then I’m going to take it because there isn’t anybody else doing it. I feel like I can step up and be that vocal leader.
“It’s different once you hear one of your own brothers say something to you than mom or dad because they’ve been through what you’ve been through. So I just felt like for me to say something to the guys, it would have – not a different meaning – but I guess a different meaning, if you understand what I’m saying. Hopefully that benefitted us as a team and put us in the right direction.”
Potter was pleased that his teammate addressed the squad.
“I was like, ‘Thank you.’ That’s literally what I thought, ‘Thank you,’” Potter said of his reaction to Williams’ speech. “In certain situations, especially for guys who have been here a long time like Kam, things have to be said. I’ve talked with coaches about it. All we can do is – it’s up to us.
“Coach Matta has proved he can win. He’s had teams that have made Final Fours, made national championship games, and that’s because they trusted in the system.
“When Kam stepped up and said something, at least it shows his mind-set. It’s up to us, the coaches can only do so much. It’s up to us to accept that challenge of what the coaches put in front of us. But until that happens, until the entire team fully accepts what the coaches want and what the coaches’ plan is and we accept that that’s what going to make us successful, we’ll have a hard time.”
Matta said the squad’s triumphs depend upon the group learning to do what is best for the team in various situations.
“Guys care, absolutely. But we have to care about the right things at the right time,” Matta said Tuesday. “Those are pivotal moments in a game where you have to think, you have to do what your team needs you to do at that particular moment. It may not be the most glamorous thing, it may not make SportsCenter, it may not make the news highlights, but it’s things that the team knows and we know that are important in winning.”
Not only was that the first time in four decades that Northwestern walked away from Columbus with a victory, Ohio State fell to 2-5 in the Big Ten.
“Now, we’re at rock bottom, so whomever has something to say, go ahead and say it,” Williams said. “I’m not saying that it’s going to be me all the time. The only place we can really go is up so if anybody has anything to say, it will be helpful for us.
“We still got a losing record so if that’s not rock bottom to you then I don’t know what it is. We just got to be better. Every time we step on the court we got to be better. I feel like the only place we can really do that is in practice. We got to make a change.”
A change that may help get this season back on track is the squad acknowledging what the coaches are saying.
“I just feel like at certain points we don’t want to listen,” Williams said. “We don’t want to listen to the coaching staff and that really bites us in the butt. We want to do it our way and not the coaches sometimes, and that really gets us in tough situations.”
Potter said that in order for he and his teammates to turn this season around, they have to be something they’re already a part of – a team.
“It’s just got to be every guy’s individual thought process has to be made that we’re a team," the Mentor, Ohio, native said. "We got to love each other, we got to play for each other, we got to play for Coach Matta, we got to play for Ohio State University. There are games this year where we’ve proved we can play, and that’s when we played as a team. When we get back to that, it’ll be dangerous.”
Williams added that the top issue hamstringing this team is its inability to properly handle being critiqued.
“I think our biggest problem is not being able to take criticism,” Williams said. “I feel like some of us, we just take criticism to heart. All we’re trying to do is help each other get better and win games. Like Micah said, when we’re all dialed in to that one goal, I feel like we can really accomplish some great things. But it’s obvious when we’re out there, everybody is not in sync with each other.
“I think it’s all mental. I think the thoughts that we’re going into some of the games with aren’t positive thoughts. And we need everybody going into a basketball game to have the same positive, common goal, and that’s to win the game, not stats, not how many rebounds I can get, not how many points I can get. The ultimate thing we’re trying to achieve is to win basketball games, that’s why it’s a team game.”
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