Win Over Lamar Wake-Up Call for Buckeyes
By Ben Axelrod
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The reporter had not even finished asking his question before Ohio State coach Thad Matta provided him with an answer.
“Absolutely,” Matta blurted out as he was asked if the Buckeyes’ 70-50 win over Lamar on Tuesday was one in which his team missed the 2010-11 team’s departed seniors.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State had just won by 20 points, but between Matta’s quick response, his hoarse voice, and the body language of sophomores Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas after the game, it was clear to see that the Buckeyes were far from pleased with their performance against the Cardinals.
“Especially with this team, I don’t talk about past teams,” Matta said.
“We’re a young, young, basketball team. The one thing I’ve tried to get these guys to understand is the level that we have to practice at.”
The Buckeyes disappointment with Tuesday’s performance stems from a sloppy first half that saw OSU miss 20 shots and convert just 39.4 percent of its field goal attempts.
The shooting didn’t get much better for the Buckeyes from the free throw line either. OSU made 41.7 percent of its free throw attempts in the first half and only improved slightly to a 42.9 percent performance following intermission.
“We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. And as I told the guys after the game, we have routines that we do in preparation and I’ve been on this basketball team about shooting,” Matta said.
“Shooting is a mindset and for whatever reason, they weren’t dropping for us early and free throw shooting has always been a contagious thing.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Sullinger, who led the Buckeyes with 18 points and 11 rebounds, agreed with Matta’s assessment that his team wasn’t as focused as it needed to be against Lamar.
“Games like this are a mindset game,” Sullinger said.
“If you don’t come in ready to play, you’re in for a rude awakening. You’re going to be in a game where, you know, you might get upset.”
Fortunately for OSU, its less-than-stellar effort still managed to overpower a Cardinals team that only shot 35.1 percent from the field for the entirety of Tuesday’s game. Lamar missed a total of 37 shots against the Buckeyes, including an 0-for-12 performance from 3-point range.
Matta admitted that his initial reaction to the win may have been an overreaction.
“If you were to tell me we were going to win by 20 points tonight, I would’ve said you were crazy,” Matta said.
“Maybe it wasn’t that bad, you know, you take a look at the tape. I thought Lamar was a really good basketball team and we probably did some things better than I thought we did.”
Thomas, who finished as the Buckeyes second-leading scorer with 16 points on Tuesday night, shrugged off OSU’s slow start as just a part of the game of basketball.
“It’s like that sometimes,” he said.
“Some games, you’re off, so you’ve got to do it on the defensive end.”
Taking a less optimistic approach, Sullinger said that the Buckeyes can’t afford a repeat of Tuesday’s performance on Thursday against Miami University, let alone once Big Ten play begins on Dec. 28.
“When we get in to Big Ten play, we can’t have anything like this,” Sullinger said.
“Even on Thursday, we can’t have a game like this.”
Luckily for Sullinger, Thomas said that the Buckeyes know just what it will take to boost their effort against the Redhawks.
“It all starts in practice,” Thomas said. “You practice (how) you play. We got to come in and practice, work hard, and listen to coach.”
It is unlikely Thomas will be hearing any rebuttal from Matta.
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