The night is darkest before the dawn, and for the No. 24-ranked Ohio State men’s basketball team (16-4, 3-4), that dawn might have arrived.
After struggling through a four-game losing streak — the program’s longest since February 2008 — the Buckeyes got back on track with a 62-55 victory against Illinois last Thursday.
Freshman forward Marc Loving said just getting a win helped raise spirits in the locker room.
“Our moods are definitely a lot lighter than what they were during the four-game losing streak,” Loving said Tuesday. “I would say there’s been a lighter load going into the next game. I feel like a weight’s been lifted off of us, get a little monkey off our back. Going into this next game, we definitely have a mindset that we’ve got to execute and get stops defensively because that’s what we key on.”
It’s been more than two weeks since OSU headed into a game off a win, and some players are hoping their problems have been fixed.
Junior center Amir Williams, who saw his minutes decline during the losing streak, said a lot of time in practice has been dedicated to two things: defense and shooting.
“We spent a lot of time these past few days working on our defense and a lot with our shooting,” Williams said Tuesday. “That’s mainly been a problem that we’ve had in the past, guys were just driving by us and not playing our principles on defense so we just got back to the basics and broke down what we had to do defensively to keep teams from scoring against us and just get up a lot of shots offensively. We’ve been putting a lot of time into shooting the ball.”
Williams added that another four-game losing streak has to be prevented at all costs for a team with as high of goals like OSU’s.
“We can’t take any team for granted,” Williams said. “This is a tough conference to play in night in and night out so we’re going to continue to build … That four-game losing streak is something that can’t happen to us again. We’re going to have losses and we’re going to win some games but we can’t just not show up to play like we did those last four games.”
Next up, the Buckeyes are set to take on Penn State (10-10, 1-6) and will be hoping to contain their leading scorers, redshirt-junior guard D.J. Newbill (17.2 points per game) and graduate-senior guard Tim Frazier (16.5 points per game).
OSU coach Thad Matta said despite the Nittany Lions’ record, they will not be overlooked by the Buckeyes.
“You look at Penn State, they’ve been in every single game they’ve played this season and had some of the craziest losses I’ve seen in terms of the ball didn’t bounce their way,” Matta said Tuesday. “Obviously Frazier and Newbill have shown, not only this year but throughout their career, that they can go into an arena and get 30 on you … but you get a pretty good feel of who they’re trying to get shots for and we’ve got to do a pretty good job of locking those guys down the best we can.”
The last time OSU lost to Penn State was Jan. 10, 2004. Tipoff is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.