Five Things We Learned While Breaking a Losing Streak
By John Porentas
1) Winning is always more fun that losing. That seems pretty obvious, but sometime you can lose sight of that when your team starts the season 15-0. Wins start being taken for granted, and as they pile up, they become less and less appreciated. Nothing changes that faster than a losing streak. People become surly or even outright nasty. The mood after the win over Illinois could not have been more different than it was after the recent losses. Never undervalue a win, even over a cupcake.
2) Illinois is worse that OSU. As happy as everybody is to win, and they should be, it isn't like this was a dramatic turnaround. After post-game interviews I asked some media members if the better team won or the worse team lost. Nobody had an answer. Illinois was just what the Buckeyes needed to break the losing streak and get things started in the right direction, but lets be real here, this year's Illinois team is not exactly a juggernaut. The Buckeyes had home court advantage, and this was not exactly a blowout, but it's still a step in the right direction.
3) The apple does not fall far from the tree. Illinois Head Coach John Groce coached under Thad Matta as an assistant coach at three different schools from 2001 through 2008. There is a lot of Matta in Groce. After the game he spoke glowingly of how well both teams defended in the first half. Some people may have interpreted that half as one of poor offense, but it was very Matta-esque of Groce to see the level of play as a function of defense, not offense. As if to underscore the idea that they are very much alike, Matta too talked a whole lot about defense after the game just like Groce did, not the lack of offense.
4) Amir woke up. While his scoring numbers may not have been outstanding, Amir Williams played like he had some resolve against Illinois. He was on the floor diving for loose balls, nabbed nine rebounds to tie Illinois' Nnanna Egwu for the game high, and blocked a game-high three shots. He missed a dunk, but made three of four free throws while scoring seven points. It was a step forward for Williams.
5) Finishing. The big question after the game was why this outcome was different that the outcomes during the losing streak. Aaron Craft said he went back and watched some tapes. What he learned was that last year when games were close late in the game the Buckeyes found ways to finish and pull out wins. During the losing streak, Craft said, the game were all tight late, but the Buckeyes just didn't have the right mind set to leave the floor winners. That's what he and his teammates focused on, staying focused and connected late in the game and doing the things to put the game in the W column. It showed.
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