The Final Preparations

Tuesday night, the Buckeyes will take the court for their second and final exhibition game. While they want to win, head coach Thad Matta said there is more to gain from an exhibition match than can be defined by wins and losses.

It might sound silly, but Ohio State knows not to take Findlay lightly. The Buckeyes need look no further than to both the University of Dayton and conference foe Michigan State for inspiration.

Friday night, the preseason pick to be the top team in the Big Ten this season dropped a double-overtime decision, 85-82, to Division II opponent Grand Valley State. One day prior, Dayton fended off the D-II Findlay Oilers, 81-78.

So on the heels of an 88-59 victory over Ashland in OSU's first exhibition game of the season, it might be safe to say the Buckeyes are guarding for the upset. However, that does not appear to be the case.

"I don't think you have to (mention it)," Matta told reporters on the eve of his team's final exhibition game against Findlay. "I think keeping it in perspective is so important at this stage. I think it goes to show you that we've all got a ways to go. For us, it still remains so much about us and trying to get better in the areas we need to get better in knowing full well we're not where we need to be yet."

For the second exhibition game of the young season, the focus is again on preparing his own team to do well as opposed to trying to adjust a game plan to the opposition. Matta did say he knows the Oilers are a solid three-point shooting team and they play good half-court offense.

That's a step above what senior guard Jamar Butler said the Buckeyes knew about Ashland prior to the game: "Nothing."

As the focus remains the same for Tuesday night's game, it appears Matta might be feeling more settled on how he will rotate his players throughout the game. Leading up to the Ashland game, the plan was to rotate players through to see how different groups of players meshed with each other.

The plan is similar, but Matta said there are no player combinations he still wants to see on the court. When referencing sophomore guard P.J. Hill, Matta said he was pleased with how he directed "his guys" when he came off the bench in the first half.

Hill was part of a mass substitution early in the game that relieved the team's starters. His group helped spark a 13-0 OSU run that put the Buckeyes ahead for good.

"They were ready to go," Matta said. "Those are the types of things that I probably pay more attention to than did we make the shot or not. How they're communicating together, how they're interacting together, those types of things I think are very important for me."

As a result, it's a safe bet that last week's starting five of Jamar Butler, Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Othello Hunter and Kosta Koufos will remain unchanged for the Findlay game as well.

The challenge for them – and the rest of the team – will be to continue to show improvement from the last time they took the floor. Doing so will not necessarily show up on the stat sheet.

A scare or two might not be a bad thing either, Matta said. As the Buckeyes prepared for Ashland, he did not tell his players that the Eagles were a transition team that liked to push the ball, watching instead to see how his players adapted on the fly to the situation.

"We've got to get better in all areas, but I think by the same token sometimes when you win them it's harder to get your guys to understand that, ‘hey, we did not do these things well,' " Matta said. "Sometimes it's easier to teach after you've been beat than it is after you've won."

When it comes to teaching, though, Matta said both a win and a loss can be useful for helping a team progress.

"I can look back at the Florida game last year at Florida and say, ‘That was the best thing that happened to us,' " he said. "But had we not won a lot of games I would have said that was probably one of the worst things that could have happened to a young team. You never know how it's going to play out."

While it might not be the most important thing, the Buckeyes are hoping to come out with a victory against Findlay as a final tune-up for the regular season. Most of the team saw the MSU upset.

"I just think that it shows that everybody needs to be ready," Hill said. "I think coach reiterates that every time we take the floor, we're playing like we're playing for a national championship. Anybody can beat you at any time, so you have to be ready to play."

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