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Men’s basketball: Williams locker room speech shows Buckeyes are in need of fast turnaround

OSU coach Thad Matta stands on the sideline during a second-round Big Ten tournament game against Penn State on March 10 in Indianapolis. OSU won 79-75.
Credit: Lantern file photo

Following Ohio State’s 74-72 loss on Sunday to Northwestern, redshirt junior Kam Williams provided an intense speech to his fellow teammates. The locker room fell silent following head coach Thad Matta’s speech, and Williams felt the need to change that.

“I just felt like something had to be said after a loss like that,” Williams said at the team’s weekly press conference.

“We did not play well at all, and I just felt like someone beyond the coaches has to step up and say something. If that’s the role I’m going to have to take going forward, then I’m going to take it because ain’t no one else doing it.”

While this may be seen as a shot taken at his teammates, Williams insisted it signifies his opportunity to step up and be the team’s vocal leader.

There is a repetitive theme in Williams’ speech and it can be traced back to last year’s struggles which resulted in a National Invitation Tournament bid. Ohio State now sits at 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten following the loss to Northwestern. Players like Williams noticed all the recent momentum gained from wins against Michigan State and Nebraska has vanished.

Matta’s main worry with the outburst was how the team would respond. Micah Potter, a freshman center, chimed in with his thoughts on Williams’ speech.

“It was definitely something that needed to be said,” Potter said. “Just reiterating what he said, everybody’s got to look themselves in the mirror because our biggest issue is just toughness and making sure that we’re prepared to play. We come out not ready to play, that’s a big issue and we’re going to lose every time.”

It can be rather concerning for a fan base to hear from a player that the team is not consistently coming out ready to play, but the honesty of the situation is the first step to rebounding. With limited time left in the regular season, the Buckeyes need to get going in a hurry if they still have any hopes of receiving an NCAA Tournament bid.

OSU’s best opportunity to achieve its goals is by winning the Big Ten Tournament. With several crippling losses, it would be hard for the Buckeyes to earn an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The need for a strong winning streak to finish the regular season is crucial to build confidence before they travel to Washington for the Big Ten Tournament.

The Buckeyes return to the court Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center against Minnesota. Whether Williams’ speech has sunk in with his teammates will be answered in those 40 minutes of action.

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