Matta Hoping Rare Monday Appearance Will Snap Losing Streak
By Rob Ogden
The Buckeyes aren't used to playing Big Ten games on Monday. This time, they're thankful for the opportunity.
Ohio State, losers of three-straight conference games, get back to action Monday night at Nebraska, four days after losing at Minnesota and falling below .500 in league play.
After opening the season with 15-consecutive wins, the Buckeyes haven't tasted victory since Jan. 4, when they beat the same Nebraska team they will face in Lincoln in a Martin Luther King Day showdown.
"I don't think I've ever played a Monday Big Ten game," coach Thad Matta said Sunday.
Photo by Jim Davidson
But needless to say, the Buckeyes are eager to get back into the win column.
"I don't think any of us have ever lost three games in a row at any level, so it's kind of unchartered territory for everyone," senior point guard Aaron Craft said. "But we're excited to get back on the floor."
The bruised and beaten Buckeyes ought to be licking their chops preparing to face the Cornhuskers, who haven't won since before Christmas, and are 0-4 in the Big Ten play.
Matta's team didn't take much time off to lick its wounds. The Buckeyes didn't practice Friday, but were back at it over the weekend, trying to figure out how to get back to the play that escalated them to No. 2 in the country earlier this season.
Matta said he wants his team looking forward, not back.
"That's one of the battles, trying to play forward, and not hang on," Matta said. "We can't change the past. The only thing we can control is the next game, the next practice.
"I want them focusing their attention on Nebraska, and getting back to playing their best basketball."
Craft said the first step to getting back to good basketball is to regain their confidence.
"For some reason we're not playing with very much confidence right now," he said. "If we miss a shot or two, you don't want to shoot the next one."
If Ohio State's 84-53 win over Nebraska earlier this month is any indication, there should be plenty of confidence to go around by the time this one's done.
In that game, five different Buckeyes finished in double figures and Ohio State shot better than 50 percent from the floor as a team.
Craft said the team's recent struggles feel similar in some ways to the struggles the team faced last February, when it lost three of four games in conference play, the final of which was a 71-49 loss at Wisconsin.
After that game, the team conducted a players-only meeting, then went on to win its next 11 games.
Craft said they haven't had a similar meeting this year, and are hoping they won't have to.
"But they're not gonna feel sorry for us. It's gonna be another challenge," he said about the Cornhuskers.
"Hopefully this is one of the lowest places we get to this year. That's on us to pick ourselves up."
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