Matta's Buckeyes Aiming to Re-Find Winning Ways
By Rob Ogden
It's been a rough few weeks for fans of Ohio State football and basketball.
First the football team drops its final two games of the season, snapping its 24-game winning streak, then the basketball team losses two straight after beginning the year 15-0.
Both teams darted through the easy waters but floundered when the schedule got tough.
The comparison was posed to junior Sam Thompson Wednesday as the Buckeyes prepared to face Minnesota.
"We weren't as good as the football team," Thompson quipped. "We didn't have the two-year win streak going on. We lost to Michigan State, we lost to Iowa, and now we have a chance to bounce back, and that's all we're worried about."
Bouncing back won't be easy, though. It rarely is in the Big Ten.
The Gophers (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten) are unranked, but showed what they're made of Saturday night in East Lansing in an overtime loss to Michigan State.
Playing in Minneapolis won't make the task any easier.
"I honesty can't tell you one easy environment to play in in the Big Ten," coach Thad Matta said.
Yet a win at "The Barn" is exactly what the Buckeyes need in order to keep themselves in the thick of the Big Ten race.
"We know it's gonna be a tough game for us. We know nothing's gonna be easy," junior Shannon Scott said. "It's not like we're playing a random team. It's Minnesota. We're in the Big Ten now. We know if we don't play the way we're supposed to play, we're not gonna win the game."
Sunday's loss to Iowa marked only the second time in the past four seasons that Ohio State has dropped consecutive games.
Last season, the Buckeyes lost in overtime at Michigan, then were defeated by No. 1 Indiana five days later.
It turned out okay in the end, as they won the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Thompson said that experience has helped them deal with 2014's tribulations.
"I don't think anyone in the locker room is hanging their head" he said. "We're obviously upset about the losses – none of us like to lose – but we know it's a long season. We know that we still have an opportunity to do all the things we set out to do this season.
"As bad of a week as we had, we know we have another opportunity (Thursday) to come out and get back on the right track."
Matta has been beaten in consecutive games 19 times during his tenure at Ohio State. It's been a while since he's lost three-in-a-row.
"We've been knocked down," Matta said. "I told Marc Loving after the game, 'This isn't the only time in your career you're gonna be at a low point. Trust me, it happens.'
"We've lost to two top-20 teams back-to-back. We've had a shot to win them both. We're trying to find how to get back to playing our best basketball."
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