Final loss still haunts Buckeyes

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Last updated: 10/31/2013 4:10 AM
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Men's Basketball
Buckeyes Still Haunted by Season-Ending Loss
By John Porentas

When the clock read 00:00 the scoreboard read Wichita State 70, Ohio State 66.

Wichita State moved on to the Final Four. The Buckeyes went home.

It was an heart-breaking end to the season. Prior to that loss the Buckeyes had been on an absolute roll. They had won 11-straight including the Big Ten tournament where they avenged their last loss by defeating Wisconsin in the championship game. The Badgers had thumped them 71-49 in mid-February up in Madison, but when they played in March in Chicago in the Big Ten Tournament title game it was OSU who prevailed. In that 11-game winning streak they had also gone to Bloomington and beaten Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana on the night the Hoosiers cut down the nets to celebrate their title.

Amedeo Della Valle shows his disappointment as the clock runs out.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Amedeo Della Valle

Yes sir, the Buckeyes were on a roll. Then they got rolled by the Shockers.

Appropriate nickname, and the shock has still not worn off.

The Buckeyes are still haunted by that loss, largely because they simply didn't play well, especially in the first half. OSU shot just 24 per cent from the field in that half and trailed at half time by a score of 35-22. They were better in the second half, but it wasn't enough.

They still remember it. That's because Thad Matta wants it that way.

"They're (the OSU coaching staff) not going to let us forget about it especially since eight of our ten guys were there," said senior point guard Aaron Craft.

"They were in the moment, they experienced it, so they were in the preparation, during the game, all that, so it's something we all can kind of relate to and of build off one another."

The loss haunts Matta for what it is, a loss, but also for how it took place.

LaQuinton Ross hangs his head as one thing after another goes wrong for the Buckeyes in the first half.
Photo by Jim Davidson
LaQuinton Ross

"It's one of those things where things weren't going the way we needed them to go early, and we couldn't play ourselves out of the hole," said Matta.

"Some of the plays that Wichita State made to increase (their lead) were incredible, but that's what it takes to get to the Final Four, you have to make those plays.

"The other thing is I don't want guys to forget why we got in that position, because we were playing at such a high level at the end of the year, and I think we know this, the NCAA tournament is lot of times about getting on a roll at the right time.

"We've had a couple halves throughout the course that have been costly. The first 30 minutes of that game were not what we needed there."

For Craft, any loss is a disaster, you can see that in his play. The loss to Wichita State however especially stings, because most of OSU's problems that night were from the eyebrows up.

"I've got losses from high school I still think about and I'm very angry about. I think about plays that we could have done different.

"I think that the best thing that we can do is move forward with that learning behind us. They had a bigger cause than we did that day, and having a cause doesn't just happen. You need to have it every single day that we come into practice.

"We just weren't ready to go. We didn't appreciate that opportunity, and that's something we need to come in every day and try to build."

That's probably the lesson of that loss, that you have to be ready every time, not just most the time. Unlike Craft, Matta isn't as ready to move on and put that loss behind them. He has dissected that loss to the nth degree and haunts his team with it whenever he feels like they have lost sight of the lesson.

LaQuinton Ross slumps as the clock runs out
Photo by Jim Davidson
LaQuinton Ross

"We went through and drew the correlation, we were 29-8 and you can look at the eight losses and there were common themes,' said Matta.

"It was (video coordinator) Jake Diebler's first job when he got here. I said I want you to find out why we lost those eight games.

"He gave me maybe the most detailed report I've ever seen in terms of his thoughts of why we lost games, but there was a common bond to it. Kids are smart. They know. You can throw those out during the course of the season."

Matta will be haunting his team with the memory of that loss whenever he sees the need this season. He's decided that this year's Halloween haunting may last until March for the Buckeyes if it looks like they are starting to forget. A neat trick to get a grand treat.

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