January 22, 2013

Three-point play: Iowa

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just three days removed from its loss to Michigan State in East Lansing, the No. 14-ranked Ohio State men's basketball team (13-4, 3-2) will return to the court tonight for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff with Iowa (13-5, 2-3). On Monday, head coach Thad Matta and members of his team met with the media to help preview the Buckeyes' upcoming battle with the Hawkeyes.

Shannon surviving

Following their 59-56 defeat at the hands of the Spartans, some OSU fans placed blame for the Buckeyes' loss on a premature three-point shot attempt from Shannon Scott in the final seconds on the game. Matta, however, disagreed with the notion that the sophomore point guard should shoulder the heat of the OSU loss for not getting the ball to a trailing Deshaun Thomas.

"Obviously we needed a three-point shot. We didn't have the ball exactly where we wanted in terms of what we were trying to get done. Our spacing wasn't what it needed to be. Everybody wanted Deshaun to shoot it, they locked on Deshaun," Matta explained. "Trust me, that was not the play why we lost the game. There's no doubt about that."

Burying his face in his own jersey in the immediate moments after the final buzzer sounded, it was clear that Scott took the Buckeyes' defeat to heart. Thomas, for his part, said he did everything that he could to console his younger teammate.

"I talked to him. I told him, 'Just keep your head up, man. I was in that situation before, you've got more games. Just keep your head up and stay focused,'" Thomas recalled. "In that position, I probably would have thought that a guy was going to foul me. I probably would've done the same thing."

Hosting the Hawkeyes

In Iowa, OSU will be hosting a team that is fresh off of wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern. And while the Hawkeyes may not carry the same recognition or ranking as some of the Big Ten's traditional powers, Buckeyes' point guard Aaron Craft said that picking up a win in conference play is important no matter who it comes against- especially at home.

"You've got to protect home court in this league. It's very tough to win and be there at the end if you lose some home games in this league," Craft said. "With the quick turnaround, we're trying to find ways to get better and also kind of recuperate and get our bodies ready to go."

According to Matta, picking up a third conference home win may be easier said than done. Iowa comes into tonight's matchup sporting a 13-5 record, and possess one of the deeper benches in the Big Ten.

"You look at their team and who they're starting and the guys coming off their bench have been starters for them. They're a very deep team, they play 10 guys. They've been right there," Matta said. "They're playing great basketball in terms of they've won two in a row, they were right there at home with Michigan State and Indiana. Our guys are fully aware of what we have to do and how we have to do it."

Secondary help

After Thomas scored 28 points against the Spartans and no other Buckeye scored more than six, questions only persisted pertaining to who can aide OSU's leading scorer through the remainder of the season. Thomas himself said that questions about the Buckeyes' lack of a second offensive option have been overblown and that it can be any one of his teammates.

"Other teams got that second or third-leading scorer, but with the offense that we've got, anybody can score," Thomas said. "I have faith in my guys and there's guys on this team that are capable of scoring in double-digits a night. We've just got to be patient within our offense."

Matta agreed with Thomas' assessment, although he also admitted that some players are still trying to find their roles in the offense. Regardless of what recent numbers show, with Thomas being OSU's leading scorer in 14 of its 17 games this season, the Buckeyes' coach said that he's noticed progress in the evolution of his offense.

"I think that's one of the things that we've got to continue to do is just play off of each other. Making more simpler plays, basketball plays," Matta said. "Kind of let things unfold where they are. A lot like defense, similar to offense: do your job, be ready to do it and do it well."


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