Matt Edwards / Multimedia editor
Ever since Thad Matta took over as coach for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, the program hasn’t been accustomed to losing.
Over the past two seasons, the Buckeyes have compiled a 48-5 record with every loss coming against a ranked opponent.
One of those five losses came Friday when OSU blew a double-digit lead and fell at Indiana.
The loss didn’t sit well with the players and coaches, and conjured up some memories of the team’s Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Like the Kentucky loss, the game ended with a missed 3-pointer by William Buford that would have won the game.
“We gave up that game against Indiana,” said sophomore forward Jared Sullinger. “Not taking anything away from Indiana, but there was a couple possessions when we watched film and realized that that’s not us.”
Matta hopes his team uses the loss as a lesson for the rest of the season.
“I think that nobody likes to lose more than we do,” Matta said. “It’s like I told our guys last year, I think we learned a great lesson in the Kentucky game, but the season was over. We have the ability to learn a lesson here at the end of December and continue to move forward.”
Matta is known for being a players’ coach and normally doesn’t employ an in-your-face style of coaching.
But according to the players, the Indiana loss particularly rubbed Matta the wrong way and he was a little more animated than normal.
“(Matta) wasn’t very polite,” Sullinger said. “But that’s what we needed. We needed someone to put a fire under us. After that tough loss it was only right that he had to do that.”
Matta described Monday’s practice as “challenging” and “tough,” and said he really harped on the focus of the team.
“We’ve probably practiced this team harder than most teams we’ve had,” Matta said. “A lot of that has to do with the youthfulness and immaturity of the team and not quite understanding the level they must compete at. One of the messages yesterday was competing and a mindset carries over to the game. There was a couple moments where I had to refocus them a couple times, but for the most part I thought they did a pretty good job.”
The team responded Tuesday, beating a battered Nebraska team, 71-40, at the Schottenstein Center.
The Buckeyes committed 19 turnovers against the Cornhuskers, but Matta and his players felt they came out ready to play.
“Last week at Indiana we was careless with the ball and we didn’t value every possession,” Buford said. “For the most part I think we did that today.”
With the win against Nebraska, OSU raised its record to 14-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten conference.
At about the midpoint in the season, the team made it clear that while the team wasn’t going to dwell on the loss, they weren’t going to forget it.
“It was a life lesson as far as the game period,” Sullinger said. “We gave up 17 layups against Indiana. They got whatever shot they wanted in the second half. As you can see, we turned up our defensive intensity in this game. We were just ready to play basketball.”