Starting Five: Ohio State-Minnesota Preview
On Saturday, the No. 6 Ohio State men’s basketball team (21-4, 9-3) scored its lowest point total in more than two years with its 58-48 loss to the No. 7 Michigan State (20-5, 9-3). The loss ended a 39-game home winning streak for the Buckeyes, who won’t have the opportunity to start a new winning streak at Value City Arena until next week as their two games this week come on the road- starting tonight with a 9 PM tip-off at Minnesota (17-8, 5-7) that will air on ESPN.
What went wrong?
Following Saturday’s loss to Michigan State, OSU sophomore forward Jared Sullinger said that the Buckeyes failed to stick to their offensive system. On Monday, Sullinger elaborated on what he felt went wrong against the Spartans.
“Honestly, we looked like spoiled brats out there if you look at the tape,” Sullinger said. “Arguing with one another. Complaining about calls.”
OSU coach Thad Matta confirmed that he wasn’t happy with his team’s commitment to its gameplan on Saturday.
“It was probably more so in the first half,” Matta said. “We weren’t as collectively functioning together as we needed to be. That’s what we talked about at halftime, is doing what we do.”
Also not helping the Buckeyes’ cause was their worst shooting performance of the season. They connected on just 14 of their 53 attempts against the Spartans. That showing fell well below their season shooting average of 48.2 percent and was something that Matta said had more to with with Michigan State than it did the Buckeyes.
“They played tremendous defense and they have the capability to do that,” Matta said. “We had some looks that didn’t go down for us- we missed them. Those are things that when you’re playing a great team, like Michigan State, you need a couple of those.”
William Buford scored four points against the Spartans- the fewest he’s had against a Big Ten opponent since his freshman season. The OSU senior guard said that the Buckeyes deserve some of the blame for their dreadful shooting performance on Saturday.
"We just couldn’t convert," Buford said. "We let a lot of things get into our head."
Despite the loss- which was the first one at Value City Arena for 12 current Buckeyes- the team doesn’t seem to view itself as being at a crossroads of any sort. In fact, Buford is eager to prove that OSU’s loss to MSU was the exception and not the norm.
“We get to show the world that (Saturday) was a fluke,” he said.
Sullinger agreed that Saturday’s loss isn’t anything to overanalyze.
“I think I’m speaking for the whole team (in saying) we just chalked it up (to a bad day) and said we’ll get ’em back on March 4th at their place,” Sullinger said. “And then we focused in on Minnesota.”
After an extended film session on Sunday, the Buckeyes didn’t have much time to dwell on what went wrong on Saturday. For the second time in as many weeks, OSU will play on the Tuesday after a Saturday game. Sullinger said Sunday’s film session should go a long way towards correcting Saturday’s mistakes.
"I think we kind of learned our lesson watching film for about an hour so," Sullinger said. "We should be fine. We just have to bounce back and keep doing what we’ve been doing."
Matta said that there isn’t much of a difference coaching on a quick turnaround whether it’s coming off of a win or a loss.
"Even when you win a game, you look back and say, ‘Boy we’d better get these things corrected.’ We’ve been fortunate we haven’t had a ton of experiences with (losing). But with such a quick turnaround, we look at the things we didn’t do particularly well and you try to aim them toward Minnesota."
Gauging the Gophers
After losing leading scorer and rebounder Trevor Mbakwe seven games into the season with a torn ACL, Minnesota has yet to have a dominant scorer emerge on its roster, but has been led by four players averaging more than eight points per game in Rodney Williams, Julian Welch, Austin Hollins, and Ralph Sampson III. Matta said that the Buckeyes won’t get past the Gophers with the same effort that they gave on Saturday.
"We have to play better," he said. "We have to play more connected, we have to play our system. No matter what happens, it’s a long game, there’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs, but we have to have great trust in what we’ve done 105 times in practice (this year) that it will work."
Sullinger is confident that Minnesota will have his team’s full attention come Tuesday night.
"You have to have a short-term memory and that’s what this basketball team has," Sullinger said. "If we keep dwelling on this Michigan State game and keep harping on it and talking about it pretty soon we’re not going to be able to focus on the next game. Then we’re going to let one slip past us. Honestly, we’ve just got to stay focused on the present."