Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The Ohio State men’s basketball team looks to rebound against the Minnesota Golden Gophers following a brutal 71-49 loss at Wisconsin Sunday.
Similarly, the Gophers are also looking to respond after a devastating 21-point loss to unranked Iowa Sunday. That loss dropped Minnesota to seventh place in the Big Ten, three games behind OSU.
With both teams trying to get back on track, sophomore forward Sam Thompson said he’s ready for a battle.
“We’re expecting a war,” Thompson said. “We need a win, they need a win, and tomorrow I think that’s going to show on the court.”
Several Buckeyes have said the team is bothered by the way the team played against Wisconsin.
“Sunday afternoon we were an embarrassment,” Thompson said. “We have to correct that.”
The Gophers (18-8, 6-7 Big Ten), which have been ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation this season, are coming into the game looking to turn their season around. After starting off with a 15-1 record and a 3-0 mark in conference play, Minnesota has gone 3-7 in its last 10 games.
All of those games were against Big Ten opponents.
While the No. 18-ranked Buckeyes (18-7, 8-5 Big Ten) have lost three of their last four conference games, those defeats all came at the hands of ranked opponents.
“We’re playing some great basketball teams,” coach Thad Matta said.
While both teams are likely to be playing with a chip on their shoulder, the loss in Madison has a number of Buckeyes fired up.
“I think I can speak for the team, we are embarrassed,” junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said at a Tuesday press conference.
“We not only embarrassed ourselves, we embarrassed our coaching staff, our university, our school president and our fans. We embarrassed everybody. We didn’t answer the call. We didn’t do anything we’re known to do. We kind of abandoned everything: our principles, offensively and defensively.”
Matta, Thompson and Smith Jr. all stressed the need for the team to play better defense if it wants to be successful moving forward and also improve on the season-low 49 points the team scored against the Badgers.
Thompson said the team has met several times since the loss to address their shortcomings.
“We understand that what happened on Sunday is unacceptable and we’re working to change that,” Thompson said. “When we all come to play defensively, we’re a heck of a defensive team.”
However, getting everyone to “come to play” has been a challenge at times for the Buckeyes this season. Both Thompson and Smith Jr. spoke about the need to focus more consistently.
“It’s almost getting close to March,” Smith Jr. said. “It’s time that we turn the page and become that team that we know we’re capable of being.”
Their first opportunity to become that team is Wednesday at 7 p.m.