As the Ohio State men’s basketball team prepares to play its fourth road game in a five game stretch, it is struggling to find its rhythm.
OSU coach Thad Matta said he is not only pondering a switch in the starting lineup, he added he is wondering if the Buckeyes can pull their season together as they approach the thick of the Big Ten season.
The Buckeyes are coming off of their third conference loss in six Big Ten games, and find themselves outside the top 25 for the second straight week.
On the other side of Thursday’s matchup, the Northwestern Wildcats are reeling, having lost four straight with second-year coach Chris Collins.
OSU coach Thad Matta said Wednesday that some of the problems the Buckeyes are having seem to be mental, rather than physical or because of a lack of effort.
“You got a guy who is not shooting the ball well. He is struggling from the 3-point line right now. I look at them and I say, ‘What has changed? Is the line farther? Is the basketball moving while you’re shooting?’ It’s right here,” Matta said, pointing to his forehead. “We have got to change how we are thinking in terms of our preparation and getting ready to play.”
Matta added that even if his team can correct the mental mistakes, it still might not be enough.
“Every night we take that floor, you (the players) have a certain thing you have to do, you have a certain thing you have to bring to this team on this given night, and we need it,” Matta said. “In this league, you might play your best and not win. There is always that risk.”
Playing a Northwestern team that has lost four of its first five conference games would, on paper, look like the perfect bounce back game for the Buckeyes.
However, OSU has struggled on the road in the past with the Wildcats, having not won a game by more than 10 in Evanston, Ill., since Feb. 13, 2008, and losing by three in Evanston in 2009.
OSU senior guard Shannon Scott, who last played in Welsh-Ryan Arena in 2013, said that despite the lack of hype and excitement surrounding this game outside the two schools, Thursday’s matchup is important for both sides.
“This is a must-need win for us, and for them as well. We both know that both teams are going to come out ready to play on Thursday,” Scott said. “It (the arena) has kind of like a high school feel at times, but I mean they are going to have a crowd there so it’s not going to be a high school game.”
Despite a less-than-impressive start to the conference season, Scott said he feels as though the Buckeyes have yet to hit their stride.
“We are still rising right now. We are nowhere near our peak. I think a big part of that is just us playing every game,” Scott said. “I think sometimes we still lose our focus and we don’t play every possession and that really costs us.”
Matta agreed, but added not every team has risen to its full potential right away.
“Every team I have ever had here has found its stride, some better than others,” Matta said.
Ultimately, Matta is hoping that the Buckeyes have yet to hit that stride.
“I think that our best basketball hopefully is ahead of us,” Matta said. “One of the things that we have talked about in the five losses, we have shown moments of playing really, really good basketball.”
The Buckeyes will try to get back to their winning ways against the Wildcats at 7 p.m.