Men's Cagers Looking To Rebound

It is safe to say that things did not go according to plan the last time the Buckeyes took to their home court. As a result, the last few days have been interesting -- to say the least -- for the Ohio State men's basketball program. BuckeyeSports.com has all the details.

It might have been a long evening for Thad Matta, but it was an even longer night.

After the Buckeyes suffered a 70-68 loss by Division II foe Findlay on Nov. 6, Matta did what he normally does after a game. He sat in his office with his assistant coaches and broke down the film.

However, it wound up being a long night for the 40-year-old coach that wound up with him grabbing about an hour's worth of sleep on the couch in his office. The reason?

Less than eight hours after the final buzzer sounded, the Buckeyes were on the practice court at Value City Arena for a hastily called 6 a.m. practice that sophomore David Lighty described as "physical."

"We watched the film late and by the time I would've gotten home I would've came home and turned around," Matta said, adding that he has a "very comfortable" couch. "It's not the first time."

Although the practice was apparently rather physical and demanding, both Lighty and freshman guard Jon Diebler agreed that it was something that had to be done.

The focus was on eliminating simple mental mistakes, they said.

"We had a little practice the next morning, bright and early," he said. "It was hard. Of course it was going to be hard. That's what you've got to do if you want to get better. We all realize that we have to get better."

Normally on the day following a game, the Buckeyes either do not practice or hold a light practice. Not so after a loss like the one suffered at the hands of the Oilers.

"It was something that we needed," Diebler said. "We took one on the chin the other night. They just outplayed us, but we have to learn from this. I don't think us being young can be an excuse anymore. We all came here to play big-time college basketball, and that shouldn't be an excuse from now on."

In addition to the morning practice, the Buckeyes had another practice at 4 p.m. that same day.

Throughout the preseason, Matta has frequently preached attention to detail to his players. Before the players can correctly run the team's schemes both on offense and defense, they have to learn how to do things like boxing out and posting up correctly.

With a team that has five freshmen and just four scholarship letter-winners from last season returning, Matta has likened the situation to trying to teach the Buckeyes a foreign language.

"I've never had a team this young and inexperienced," he said. "Every day is a battle. We broke down the other day and I was basically telling them, "OK, step with your right, your left, your right, your left, stop, set the screen. You, come off the screen, put your left hand up and plant your left foot, step with your right, your left, your right, your left, catch the ball.'

"They kind of looked at me like I was cross-eyed."

That much was evident as the Buckeyes trailed Findlay for nearly the entire game and seemed to be out of sync on offense and occasionally lost on defense. But rather than listen to a verbal tirade in the post-game locker room, the players were treated to a different sound.

Silence.

Although Matta came out for interviews with a raspy voice and bloodshot eyes, Lighty said the coach said precious little in the locker room.

"I think he just killed us with silence," the sophomore said. "He didn't even really know what to say. I guess he just put it on us. We know what we did wrong. We've got to be held accountable for what we did.

"That was real uncomfortable for me. I'm used to him being pumped after a game or excited or at least saying something to us. He just walked around and didn't know what to say, really."

Matta said he learned long ago to be wary of what he says immediately after games, so his lack of verbosity following the game was not a drastic departure from his typical demeanor. Still, it apparently helped hammer the point home that the Buckeyes have a long way to go.

In addition, the team's seniors called a players-only meeting Nov. 8, two days after the loss, to give the players a chance to speak freely and get on the same page.

While the emphasis was on the same things the coaching staff has been saying all season, Lighty said a message like that can be more effective at times when delivered by one's peers.

"I think you could say it could be because we're all going through the same thing," he said. "They know we're right there with them going through thick and thin. It's just coming together and being a team."

Lighty said the team has practiced well since the loss and felt they had been performing well in practice leading up to the game. Tonight, the Buckeyes will play their first regular-season game when they take on Wisconsin-Green Bay in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Perhaps reflecting the mood of the team, the Phoenix were not mentioned once during interviews before the game.

"We lost," Diebler said. "It may not show up on our record, but we did lose a game. We were pretty embarrassed. We just got outplayed. I think we can learn from this and I think we have."


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