Just a week into the 2012 Big Ten season, it’s likely a tad dramatic to say anyone is desperate to win a league game. But after getting shellacked at the hands of Illinois Saturday, the Ohio State men’s basketball team might be breaching “must win” territory.
At the very least, they have to play much harder, coach Thad Matta said.
“Coming off of Saturday’s game, their awareness better be heightened,” Matta said at a press conference Monday. “We’ll find out tomorrow night if we’re ready to play.”
The Buckeyes’ 74-55 loss to Illinois on Saturday dropped them to No. 15 in the Associated Press top-25 poll, and to 1-1 in conference play. OSU (11-3) will now look to rebound with a road match against Purdue on Tuesday, the team’s second game away from home in four days.
Purdue’s Mackey Arena is arguably one of the loudest venues in the conference.
“I (played) there freshman year and it was one of the loudest gyms I’ve ever played in,” said junior forward Deshaun Thomas. “It’s going to be tough. We have to match their intensity over there.”
Purdue is 7-7 on the season and 1-1 in Big Ten play, but its one conference win came at home against Illinois.
“We already know it’s going to be a real tough game for us,” said sophomore guard Shannon Scott. “They can beat anybody in the Big Ten.”
A win against the Boilermakers could be especially important for OSU, considering the matchups that loom immediately ahead on its schedule. The Buckeyes host No. 2 Michigan Sunday and then travel to Michigan State on Jan. 19 for a tilt with the No. 22 Spartans.
“We’re going to play the roughest schedule that can be played in college basketball,” Matta said. “You have to elevate your execution.”
If there’s one area of play that the Buckeyes must execute better in, it’s might shooting. Poor shooting has been a common denominator in each OSU loss, as the Buckeyes failed to make more than 34 percent of their shots in any of the three games. OSU has averaged a combined 49 percent shooting in wins this season.
Matta said he doesn’t think anything drastic needs to happen for his team to start making shots, noting that in some cases his players are missing open looks that they would usually make. But Matta also hinted that he’s considering making a change to his starting lineup, with the hopes of finding a cohesive unit to open games.
“I want to attempt to get off to a good start in the game,” Matta said. “Finding those five guys that have a flow to them is what I’m still looking at.”
Thus far, Matta has made one change to the starting lineup this season, inserting sophomore Amir Williams in for senior Evan Ravenel at center. Whether he’s considering moving Ravenel back into the starting lineup, or giving someone else the start at a different position, he would not say.
“Coach Matta will do what’s best for the team,” Scott said. “We’re starting to get a better feel for each other’s game.”
The Buckeyes and Boilermakers are set to tip off at 9 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.