How the tides have turned.
After starting the season off 15-0 and rising to No. 3 in the country, the Ohio State men’s basketball team lost back-to-back games, falling most recently to No. 20 Iowa (14-3, 3-1) 84-74 Sunday.
At the center of OSU’s recent struggles is the inability to hold onto the ball.
In their two losses this season, the Buckeyes are averaging 19 turnovers per game and allowing an average 26.5 points off those turnovers.
After the loss to Iowa, coach Thad Matta said one of the biggest issues facing OSU was allowing one turnover to turn into another.
“I think the biggest thing getting our guys to understand is you can’t let one mistake compound into another mistake. That was kind of what happened to us (against Iowa), we played some really good basketball, so did Iowa, they’re a great team, but it’s that consistency and (understanding) what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and how it needs to be done,” Matta said. “A lot of times is connecting the dots in terms of the passing and catching … just the errant passing, we knew not to throw the ball to a certain area against a certain defense and we did and we turned it over. That’s the thinking of the game that we’ve got to do a better job with a veteran team.”
In particular, a late run of turnovers when the game was on the line doomed the Buckeyes, Matta said.
“We didn’t do a good enough job taking care of the basketball. We didn’t finish, we had some chances down there around the rim and they had the stretch where they hit the three straight (3-pointers) and we were slow reacting,” Matta said. “We didn’t run guys off the line, we gave up one pass backdoor for a lay up. Those are things that can’t happen in this caliber of a game.”
The Buckeyes struggled similarly against No. 5 Michigan State last Tuesday, as late game turnovers hurt OSU in overtime.
“It was a little bit problematic for us,” Matta said after the 72-68 loss to the Spartans. “We didn’t have a flow to us offensively. It was amazing in terms of bobbling passes and not delivering them to where they needed to be. We were getting the ball where we wanted it, we just weren’t ready once it came to us.”
Before the two losses, OSU was only turning the ball over an average 10.3 times a contest. Senior guard Aaron Craft totaled a season-high six turnovers against Iowa, and only managed six points and six assists.
Craft said after the game against Iowa that the amount of turnovers is something the Buckeyes need to fix as soon as they can.
“I don’t know. It’s on us,” Craft said. “We knew they were going to press, knew they were going to do what they did, we just weren’t ready (to) take care of the ball. It comes to a point where you just gotta make smart decisions and do what you need to do to protect the ball, and we’re not doing that. It’s the first thing we have to get corrected.”
Junior forward LaQuinton Ross scored a game-high 22 points, but had his performance marred with five turnovers including two on back-to-back possessions with less than five minutes remaining.
Ross said the high number of turnovers can be chalked up to bad choices made on the court.
“Everything they did out on the court tonight we’ve seen that in film. Back to us, we made poor decisions with the ball,” Ross said. “We knew that they were going to try to jump some passes. Some of those passes they got steal on, we’ve seen that in film. We knew they (were) going to do that and we still went out and did the same thing. I think we just gotta get back in the gym, focus up on the next few games and get better.”
Next up, OSU is set to hit the road to take on Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) Thursday at 9 p.m.
Matta said it is going to be hard to win for OSU if the team continues to turn the ball over at a high rate.
“We can’t come on the road and have 21 turnovers,” Matta said after the MSU game. “We are not a good enough basketball team to waste possessions like that.”