February 9, 2013

Three-point play: Indiana

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Five days after suffering an overtime defeat at the hands of Michigan on Tuesday, the No. 10 Ohio State men's basketball team (17-5, 7-3) will return to the court on Sunday, when it hosts No. 1 Indiana (20-3, 8-2) in a 1 p.m. tipoff at the Schottenstein Center. On Friday, Thad Matta and members of his team met with the media to provide an update on the Buckeyes heading into their battle with the Hoosiers.

Moving past Michigan

Following OSU's 76-74 loss at the hands of the Wolverines on Tuesday, many questions persisted pertaining to just how it was that the Buckeyes lost their seven-point advantage in the second half. One problem, which is obvious from looking at the game's play-by-play, is the fact that OSU's leading scorer, forward Deshaun Thomas, was held without a shot in the final seven minutes of action.

"Obviously we were trying to get something for him. And give them credit, they kind of knew that too," Matta said. "It's simple to say, 'We have to get this guy a shot.' It doesn't always go that way. Everything we do, there's reads, there's options off of it, and sometimes it just happens one way or the other."

With less than half of their conference schedule remaining, OSU center Amir Williams said that it's important for the Buckeyes to stay focused on Indiana, and not stay stuck on their most recent defeat.

"It's must win for us and it's a must win for them in the race for the Big Ten title," Williams said. "We can't dwell too much on this past loss against Michigan. We just gotta come ready to play and put it in the back of our minds and try to beat Indiana on Sunday."

Who are the Hoosiers?

In Indiana, the Buckeyes will be facing a team who holds a share of first place in the Big Ten race, but is coming fresh off of a 74-72 loss to Illinois. Regardless of the Hoosiers' most recent defeat, Thomas is looking forward to the challenge of facing the nation's top-ranked team, and players such as Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford.

"It's going to be fun. They're a great team, they're a great defensive team," Thomas said. "It's going to be a great challenge and it's going to be great for the fans to see three great scorers and great players that are playing against each other. It's going to be like another rivalry game."

The star Tom Crean's top-ranked team comes in the form of center Cody Zeller, a potential No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft who is averaging 16.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in his sophomore season. Matta has been impressed by the progress of Indiana's top player, and knows that it will take more than just Williams to stop him on Sunday.

"He plays hard, he's smart, very, very athletic. Deceivingly athletic. He's added a couple things to his game from last year. He really drives the ball well both ways. He's kind of everywhere it seems like," Matta said. "I don't think you can guard a guy like that with just one guy."

Going streaking

With Kansas dropping back-to-back games to Oklahoma State and TCU this week, it is Ohio State who now holds the nation's longest streak of games played without consecutive losses. Having not suffered back-to-back defeats in 121 games, Matta is just hopeful that his team can extend that run on Sunday.

"I don't know if I can pinpoint one thing of this is why this has happened," Matta said. "We really haven't mentioned it, I think our guys are probably aware of it. Hopefully it goes to 122 or whatever on Sunday."

While Matta claims not to use it as a motivational tool for his team, Thomas disagreed. In fact, the junior forward, who hasn't suffered consecutive defeats in his college career, said that not doing so has become a part of this team's identity.

"Coach Matta always talks about it. When we lost one at Michigan, we was like, we own the record, we've never lost another game or never lost twice," Thomas said. "This program takes great pride in that and that's what Ohio State basketball's about. We come in and we get knocked off, what do we do next? We pick up and keep fighting."


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