Buckeyes Kick Off Canadian Trip

Ohio State will unofficially kick off the 2009-10 season tonight with the first of three exhibition games in Canada. After 10 days of practice in preparation for the trip, head coach Thad Matta talked about where he feels the team is headed into the trip.

As the Ohio State men's basketball team practiced in preparation for a three-game exhibition trip to Canada, the Buckeye offense looked unstoppable.

Of course, there was no defense trying to stop them. In the final of 10 days of practice before the trip across the border, OSU opened the doors for media members to see what goes into a team practice. As it turns out, practice largely consisted of drills and walk-throughs against an imaginary defense as head coach Thad Matta finished off what he hoped had been a more cerebral extra practice period.

"The 10 days that we've had, I think we've utilized them well," Matta said. "You find yourself standing in the gym saying, ‘It's August 21 and we're practicing.' "

Practices have lasted about an hour and a half, Matta said.

The Buckeyes play their first exhibition game against the University of Windsor tonight at 6 p.m. The two teams will rematch at the same time tomorrow, and the trip will conclude Monday with a noon tip-off against Western Ontario. As a result of the trip, the Buckeyes were afforded 10 days of preparation that they hope will go a long way toward helping them be ready for the 2009-10 season.

Rather than try to improve on a wide range of aspects of the game, Matta said the focus has been on a couple of crucial points.

"We've done a lot of skill instruction and getting a few things in offensively and a few things we're changing," he said. "They've had great energy, great spirit and I think they're ready to go play against someone else. It's been tremendous for us."

Asked specifically where he felt his team had improved, Matta listed a few categories.

"I think we've shot the ball well and we've played unselfish," he said. "They've done a great job of moving the basketball. Defensively, I think we've got a good grasp conceptually of what we want to do. I don't know if we'll exactly do it the way we want them to, but they at least know what they're doing."

The question is what the Buckeyes plan on doing defensively. Matta has almost exclusively utilized a 3-2 match-up zone defense for the past two seasons that has taken advantage of the natural athleticism of his team, but it has also led to the team finishing in the bottom four of the conference in rebounding margin for two consecutive seasons.

During practice, the Buckeyes went through a series of defensive drills that indicate that they could be able to switch things up this year. One drill had the players deploying a man-to-man defense that contained some zone principles, while another featured the opposite.

Asked what OSU might try to do defensively in Canada, Matta responded with "Not let them score" with a laugh before adding, "I think really have an awareness of where the ball is, where our positioning is and trying to keep the ball out of the paint as much as we can and challenge shots."

Offensively, junior swingman Evan Turner hinted that things might look a little different this season.

"We've got a different type of flow offense and we're trying to get used to that," he said. "We can't give away all the secrets. We've got little tricks up our sleeves. You'll see."

The time in Canada will not exactly mirror what OSU will face this season. The Buckeyes will be playing with international rules, which include a 24-second shot clock and not the 35-second one they are accustomed to.

Matta said it has taken some time to adjust.

"Ten years ago I took a team over and the shot clock was good for us because it forced guys to make plays," he said. "I would say the first day we put the 24-shot clock in we had six violations. We've gotten better as it went on."

Now they will put their skills on the line against an opponent they admittedly do not know a whole lot about. Junior guard Jon Diebler said it will be nice to simply play someone different.

"It's a good opportunity for us to go out and play against some different teams," he said. "We've been playing against each other since spring. To see a different opponent and see where we're at at this time of the season will be good for us."

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