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OSU men’s basketball team accustomed to tight victories in Big Ten matchups

The Ohio State men’s basketball team is college hoops’ cardiac kids.

The No. 1-ranked Buckeyes (22-0, 9-0) eked out a 58-57 win at Northwestern on Saturday, but the team is all too familiar with tight games this season.

Of the Buckeyes’ nine wins in Big Ten play, six have been decided by five points or fewer. Coach Thad Matta said he hoped these narrow victories are learning experiences for his players.

“We always preach to our players to trust the system,” Matta said. “I don’t think I’ve seen panic from our guys; I don’t think I’ve seen fear from our guys.”

After practice Wednesday, Matta also joked that he purposely kept the score close against the Wildcats to appease members of the media.

“I remember when we started conference play that all you guys said that, ‘Oh, you haven’t had a close game,'” Matta said with a toothy smile, “so it’s our obligation to keep them close so you guys can get the balance asked for.”

But OSU’s remaining conference schedule is no laughing matter.

With nine Big Ten games still to play, the Buckeyes are halfway through their conference schedule. OSU will close out its season series with Michigan (13-9, 3-6) Thursday night at the Schottenstein Center. The game is a rematch of, perhaps, OSU’s closest nail-biter of the season: its 68-64 victory at Michigan on Jan. 12.

Senior forward David Lighty discussed the challenges Michigan will present in the rematch.

“Everyone’s a shooter,” Lighty said. “We have to disrupt them as much as possible and try to make them do things they aren’t comfortable doing.”

Senior guard Jon Diebler said his team must work on rebounding.

“We just have to try and do our best to limit them to second-chance opportunities,” Diebler said. “The better job we do rebounding, the more possessions we’ll have.”

Matta will also continue to preach the significance of solidarity among team members.

“We try to keep our circle very, very tight,” Matta said. “The only people that can affect the outcome of how we play is the guys in the circle.”

The Buckeyes will tipoff against Michigan at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Schottenstein Center.

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