Courtesy of Ned Mulka/The Daily Illini
Winning 20 games in a season is nothing new to Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta. Winning 20 games before picking up his first loss, however, is a different story.
OSU’s 73-68 win against Illinois on Saturday advanced the Buckeyes’ record to 20-0 and earned Matta his 11th consecutive season with 20 or more wins as a college basketball head coach. Only Mark Few of Gonzaga has started his career with such a streak.
“It’s amazing,” Matta said. “You always want to get to 20. I mean, that was kind of like the benchmark for college basketball.”
The Buckeyes’ 20-0 start is OSU’s first since the 1961-62 season when the team started the season with a 22-0 record. A season earlier, the 1960-61 squad got off to the best start in program history with a 27-0 record. Both of those teams went on to become the national runner-up in their respective seasons.
Despite the Buckeyes’ hot start, Matta said he hasn’t noticed anyone on his team pay any attention to it.
“I haven’t heard one guy say one word about not being beaten,” Matta said. “The focus has, I think, been primarily on who’s the next opponent, and you know, the job that we have to do to win that basketball game.”
Kansas’ loss to Texas on Saturday — which snapped the Jayhawks’ 69-game win streak at home — leaves OSU and San Diego State as the only undefeated teams in the country.
With six of their next eight games coming against ranked opponents — including road matchups at Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue — the Buckeyes have their work cut out for them as they attempt to remain unbeaten.
“The Big Ten’s a great conference, and there’s no easy games, especially on the road,” senior guard Jon Diebler said. “We’ve got some great tests coming up, and we’re definitely looking forward to those challenges.”
OSU’s next test will be when it hosts Purdue at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
With a Buckeye roster composed of accomplished veterans and blue-chip freshmen, Matta said the team’s history of success would play a key role in determining how long it remains unbeaten.
“You’ve got a lot of guys on this team that have won at the high-school level, at the national AAU level,” Matta said. “I haven’t seen anything in regards to somebody letting their guard down.”