In sports, losses are bound to happen. Especially in men’s college basketball, where the last undefeated national champion was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
For the Ohio State men’s basketball team, though, losses have been a rarity the past two years — just 18 in 93 games.
But back-to-back losses to then-No. 5 Michigan State and then-No. 20 Iowa could cause some uneasiness around the program. That is not the case though, junior forward Sam Thompson said.
“I don’t think anyone in the locker room is hanging their heads. We’re obviously upset about the losses. None of us like to lose — we’re all competitors,” Thompson said Wednesday.
OSU (15-2, 2-2) coasted through its non-conference schedule and first two conference games, rising as high as No. 3 in the top 25. But the back-to-back setbacks — first on the road against the Spartans and then Sunday at home to Iowa — could have the team reeling as it prepares for its road contest with Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) Thursday. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m.
The Buckeyes, however, are doing their best to not let the negativity continue, junior guard Shannon Scott said.
“I think we were all down at first, we were pretty upset with the way we’ve been playing lately but we’re starting to get back a winner’s mentality now,” Scott said Wednesday. “I think we’re all positive, we all know what we have to do to become successful so we’re all sticking to that and we’re going to try and move on from there.”
OSU’s been here before, dropping multiple games once conference play began in the past two seasons. Two years ago, the Buckeyes lost two of four games over a 11-day span, and last season dropped three of four in February. Those teams rallied to earn trips to the Final Four and Elite Eight, though, which could prove useful for the rest of this year.
“Simply put, it’s a long season,” OSU coach Thad Matta said Wednesday. “I told (freshman forward) Marc Loving after the game, ‘This isn’t going to be the only time in your career you’re at a low point — trust me, it happens.’ It’s the reality for me coaching as long as I have. We’ve lost to two top-20 teams in back-to-back games and we’ve had a shot to win them both. I think the thing we’re trying to find is how do we get back to our consistent, our best basketball.”
The Golden Gophers took MSU to overtime Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., before ultimately falling 87-75.
“(Minnesota’s) a great team, they’ve got great guard lay and great bigs as well. We know nothing’s going to be easy,” Scott said. “We’re in the Big Ten now, it’s not like we’re playing some random team.”
Minnesota has four players who average in double figures scoring, led by junior guard Andre Hollins with 16.3.
“We know they’re not a slouch. We know that Minnesota, just like every team in this league can beat us,” Thompson said. “They’re a great team, they play a style of play that’s really caused a lot of problems for opponents this season. They force a lot of turnovers, they make a lot of threes. We know that if we don’t bring our best game or we could very easily lose this game.”
Despite his team’s losses last week, Matta said in order to get a win Thursday, OSU just has to get back to what was working before when it opened the season with 15 wins.
“I think just doing what we do, the consistency of what we do,” Matta said. “I say this all the time, know that we’re going to hold teams scoreless, not that we’re going to score every time we have the basketball but it’s one play after another play after another play after another play and then you put yourself in a position and you have a great chance to win the basketball game.”
“We definitely weren’t the same team that we were the first few weeks of the season (last week),” Thompson said. “Whatever the issue may be with that, we just have to get it back.”