Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
If Ohio State sophomore forward Sam Thompson’s outing against Penn State is any indication, then the Buckeyes might like their chances against Wisconsin Tuesday.
But before he went off for 16 points (on 6-of-7 shooting), six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals, Thompson, admittedly, said Buckeye coach Thad Matta was in his ear, challenging him, the night before their game against the Nittany Lions.
The thing is, Thompson said, little of it had to do with scoring.
“I think he told me that I had one offensive rebound in all of Big Ten play, and I think maybe four steals,” he said.
Thompson admitted he failed to snatch an offensive board.
Against the Nittany Lions, who are winless in the Big Ten, it really didn’t matter.
OSU (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten) cruised to a 65-51 win Saturday for its second consecutive victory.
In the process, Matta joked he earned his “street cred” for facilitating the Chicago native’s outing.
“I’m glad that he listened,” Matta said.
The conversation, he said, was simple, short and straightforward.
“(I said) get your mind to where you’re capable of doing the things that you can do within the context of what we’re trying to do,” Matta recalled.
And against a Wisconsin team that’s given the Buckeyes problems in the past, Matta might need to turn that conversation into a locker room speech before OSU’s game against the Badgers Tuesday.
“Wisconsin is, I think, a great basketball team,” Matta said.
The Badgers knocked off then-No. 2 Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., two weeks ago, and the last time Bo Ryan’s squad came to Columbus, it beat OSU on its Senior Day, 63-60.
It’s something sophomore guard Shannon Scott said he still remembers.
“They beat us on Will (Buford)’s last game, so we kind of want to play this for him because we kind of sent him out with a loss and we didn’t appreciate doing that,” Scott said. “They’re a great team, we know that.”
That mentality might serve the Buckeyes well, especially considering the Badgers are 12-8 in their last 20 meetings against OSU – a figure that dates back to March 2003.
Even more recently Matta is 7-10 against Ryan.
“Honestly, it seems like all the games that we’ve played have had major implications for one reason or another,” Matta said.
In 2007, then-No. 2 OSU topped No. 1 Wisconsin in Columbus in what was regarded as one of the most highly anticipated basketball games in the history of the relatively young Schottenstein Center.
In 2011, the Badgers ended OSU’s undefeated season, 71-67, in front of a raucous crowd at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Former Buckeye big man, Jared Sullinger, even accused the Wisconsin faithful of spitting on him following the game.
Matta said Tuesday’s game against the Badgers is just another day in the life in the Big Ten.
Basketball, he said, is a lot like life.
“Some good things happen, you analyze why they happen (and) bad things happen,” Matta said.
For OSU, it figures to be a fitting analogy for a season that has been inconsistent and, at times, underwhelming.
The game against Wisconsin might speak volumes to whether that’s an accurate narrative.