Two Minute Drill - Illinois Post-game
By Rob Ogden
It wasn't pretty, but it goes in the win column, and that's all that matters for the Buckeyes. Ohio State ended its four-game losing skid with a 62-55 win over Illinois Thursday night in Columbus. After the game, coach Thad Matta and a few players spoke to the media. Here are the highlights:
Thad Matta Updates
* Matta said he loved the energy the Buckeyes played with on defense, something he thought they lacked in the past two games.
* Matta said he also loved the energy in the building. He said it was one of the better crowds this season.
* He said while the Buckeyes struggled to score in the first half, he thought to himself, "Here we go again."
* Matta said his team had a different look in its eye down the stretch. He specifically mentioned Amir Williams, who he said played with more energy.
* Matta said he told Aaron Craft before the game, "I need my Aaron Craft back." He said Craft was the catalyst for the second-half surge.
* He said the biggest difference in the second half was that once they were able to see the ball going in the hoop, they started playing with more confidence and started knocking down shots.
* Matta joked that Lenzelle Smith Jr.'s 50 percent night from the floor improved his Big Ten shooting percentage to 6 percent.
Aaron Craft Updates
* Craft said they did their best to ignore the losing streak during preparation for Thursday night's game. "It was about coming out and being better than Illinois."
* He said they were "a tougher basketball team" than they had been in the previous few games down the stretch. Now he said, the goal is to keep the sense of urgency and not become complacent.
* Craft said their defense was at its best tonight because they played connected. He said they were able to help each other out instead of leaving each other on an island as they have the past few games.
* He agreed with his coach that confidence was the biggest difference for the Buckeyes in the second half. A lot of that, he said, came from easy buckets in transition off turnovers.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. Updates
* Smith said it was very important for the team to get back in the win column. "I don't think anyone on this team signed up to lose games. We're feeling a little bit better now," he said.
* Smith said he's glad to see guys smiling again, something he missed during the losing streak, but added that they still haven't accomplished anything.
* He said tribulations the team has faced during past seasons helped them stay focused for tonight's game. "We knew what we needed to get done. Guys took it upon themselves to reevaluate themselves," he said.
LaQuinton Ross Updates
* Ross said it felt good to be back at home after playing three of four games on the road, and said the home crowd helped fuel them down the stretch.
* Ross spent a little more time in the paint tonight, and said it was because he felt he had a good matchup. The Buckeyes and Illini each finished with 22 points in the paint. Ohio State had struggled in that category recently.
* He said the coaches had been preaching that the Buckeyes lost each of the past four games in the final five minutes. He said they were determined to not let the same thing happen again tonight.
John Groce Updates
* Groce said his team lost because it wasn't able to capitalize on the slow start from the Buckeyes. Ohio State shot just 29 percent form the floor and had 7 turnovers but trailed by only one at the break.
* He said the biggest plays of the game were Ross' and-one layup with 2:07 to play and Smith's 3-point dagger with 1:18 remaining.
* Groce said the live-ball turnovers in the second were "huge," and added that his team was "a play or two away" from winning the game.
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