The Buckeyes (11-12, 3-7 Big Ten) host Iowa (13-9, 6-5) at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Value City Arena. But OSU is still smarting from Saturday's 78-48 shiner at Wisconsin.
"No one is giving up in our locker room," said OSU guard J.J. Sullinger. "This is a must-win. Every game from here on out is a must-win for us. We‘re still playing for pride."
Power forward Terence Dials added, "This will be a big one for us, especially after a 30-point loss. We need to see how this team will respond."
OSU coach Jim O'Brien said he and his players addressed the Saturday night loss at Wisconsin immediately upon returning from the airport.
"We watched the game when we got back Saturday night," he said. "We didn't get out of here until 2:30 in the morning. We didn't practice Sunday. We've had two practices and I think they were upbeat. All we're going to do is try to get better and try to win the next game.
"I hope we have something left. I still believe there are games left for us to win and that's going to be our approach. We're going to keep trying and trying. When we lose our last game and they say, `Your season is over,' then that will be the end. But until then, we are going to do whatever we can to win the very next game."
If OSU has any hopes of prolonging its five-year postseason run, the Buckeyes may need to win four of their last six regular season games just to position themselves for an NIT bid. But O'Brien said that prospect does not impact his thinking.
"We don't talk about postseason at all," he said. "We're just talking about Iowa. After that, it will be Indiana. We don't talk about anything but the team we are playing against."
Of course, the Buckeyes have already played against Iowa, dropping a 79-65 decision Jan. 24 in Iowa City. That was the game where O'Brien left leading scorer Tony Stockman behind in Columbus due to a poor attitude in practice. Stockman returned a game later and, except for a 1-for-11 showing against Wisconsin Saturday, had been solid.
"We should be able to give Iowa a totally different look by having Tony available for this game," O'Brien said.
If the Buckeyes intend to pull this game out, they will need to do a better job against Iowa's guard contingent. Jeff Horner was 4-for-5 on three-pointers to score a game-high 20 points. Brody Boyd added three more treys on his way to 20 points, while Pierre Pierce added 15.
"The last time we played them, their three guards combined for 54 of their 79 points," O‘Brien said. "Horner and Boyd and Pierce, the three of them had their way with us the last time. We need to do a much better job of guarding them. We‘ve got to be tougher than we were against them the last time."
Sullinger agreed that the Buckeyes must defend better on the perimeter.
"They beat us pretty bad at their place," Sullinger said. "Their guards had a lot of their points. We know we need to make it hard for them and limit their touches."
Pierce leads the way for Iowa with 16.7 points per game. Horner is next with 12.7 ppg. Boyd follows with 10.9 ppg. Injured center Jared Reiner was averaging 10.5 ppg. just ahead of forward Greg Brunner's 10.2. Brunner is the top rebounder with an average of 7.9 caroms a game.
"This is a big game for us," Sullinger said. "We know we need to get it going heading into the Big Ten tournament. Pretty much, that's our main objective. There is a lot of basketball left. We've just got to keep working."
* Center and team captain Velimir Radinovic admitted this has been a tough senior season to endure.
"It has been pretty frustrating," he said. "It has been a lackluster season. This is not the way I wanted to go out. We just have to make the best of the opportunity and just keep working hard."
* In his first four games since the one-game suspension, Stockman averaged nearly 16 points a game. He seemed to have his game back on track, hitting 14 of 27 three-pointers during that stretch. But then came his disastrous showing at UW, where he finished with three points. But Sullinger believes Stockman will bounce back.
"Tony makes plays," he said. "Tony is a good player. We're a better team with him on the floor."
* Playing without fouling has been a problem for OSU. The Buckeyes committed 32 fouls in the loss at Iowa as well as the one Saturday at Wisconsin.
"We need to do a much better job of not picking up fouls indiscriminately," O‘Brien said. "I think when we have fouled we've shown a lack of discipline at times."
* In the first meeting with Iowa, Brandon Fuss-Cheatham scored a career-high 17 points to lead Ohio State. Sullinger added 15 points. Fuss-Cheatham was 5 of 11 from the floor and a perfect 7 of 7 at the foul line.
* Stockman leads Ohio State with an average of 12.9 points a game. He has connected on 85 percent of his foul shots (35-41). With a total of 46 steals, Stockman is among Big Ten leaders (3rd) with an average of 2.09 thefts a game. Sullinger averages 10.2 ppg. Dials is the leading scorer for OSU against Big Ten foes with an average of 11.2 ppg. Stockman is next with 11.1. Radinovic is third with 10.6 ppg. Dials is the overall team leader in rebounding with an average of 6.6 boards a contest. Radinovic tops the Buckeyes in league games with 6.7 rebounds a game.
* OSU won two of the three games with Iowa a year ago, but fell 71-64 at home.
That was Iowa's latest win in Value City Arena. Since the building opened for the 1998-99 season, Iowa is 3-1 there. In fact, the Hawkeyes were the first visiting team to win in VCA, posting a 71-68 win on Jan. 12, 1999.
* Click the link below for a look at the TV clearances and early line for OSU-Iowa.