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Ohio State men’s basketball searching for consistency against Michigan

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OSU coach Thad Matta talks with freshman guard D'Angelo Russell (0) during an exhibition game against Walsh on Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 77-37. Credit: Patrick Kalista / Lantern photographer

OSU coach Thad Matta talks with freshman guard D’Angelo Russell (0) during an exhibition game against Walsh on Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 77-37.
Credit: Patrick Kalista / Lantern photographer

Following a shaky start to Big Ten play, the Ohio State men’s basketball team is looking for some semblance of consistency.

The Buckeyes (13-4) dropped to 2-2 against conference foes and out of the Associated Press top 25 following a 69-66 loss on the road against Indiana on Saturday.

Senior forward Sam Thompson said the film from that loss “wasn’t the easiest to watch.”

“We saw a lot of mistakes that were avoidable, that we shouldn’t have made, that we could’ve alleviated simply by playing harder,” he said. “You never want to see those.”

OSU coach Thad Matta said a key to help the team find more consistency could be getting guard D’Angelo Russell to reach a more consistent level. The freshman leads the Buckeyes with 17.9 points per game this season, but shot just 3-of-15 en route to 13 points Saturday.

“I think there are going to be some ups and downs for him. I’ve said this, there’s nobody that cares more than he does about his play,” Matta said. “We’ve got to get him just being consistent, trusting what we’re doing, because he has shown he can score throughout the offense.”

Despite the poor shooting performance from Russell and the rest of the team, including a 3-for-21 line from the outside, Thompson insisted the shortage of energy is what really concerned him.

However, the Chicago native said he couldn’t give an explanation for why the energy was absent on Saturday.

“I can’t put a finger on it. I don’t exactly know why,” Thompson said. “Outside the first four minutes, we didn’t have the same energy, the same intensity that Indiana had, and consequently they got the win.

“If we knew (what the problem was), we’d fix it. But that’s something we will have fixed. I assure you it won’t be an issue tomorrow, and it’s just something we have to take one game at a time, one day at a time.”

The next game that will allow his team that opportunity is set to come Tuesday night at home against Michigan (10-6, 3-1).

Thompson said he expects the Wolverines to bring a similar threat from the outside to the one experienced over the weekend.

“They’re similar (to Indiana) in the sense that they’ve got guys that can make plays from the perimeter,” he said. “They’re quick, they’re fast, they’re athletic.”

Matta said Michigan is at its best when it is able to push the ball down the floor, something the Buckeyes will have to slow down.

“I think that they’re obviously a very good shooting basketball team,” he said. “They’re going to run their system. We’ve got to take away their transition baskets. They’re very good in transition. They’re going to get some, but we’ve got to limit it.”

With the Maize and Blue on defense, Matta said he has stressed to his players to use the shot clock and wait for a good look.

“Offensively, just recognizing the changing defenses and moving the basketball, being patient to get the shot that we deem is the best shot possible,” he said.

OSU has dropped three consecutive meetings with its archrival, including losses at home and in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament last season.

Thompson said those negative results against Michigan have been a point of emphasis leading up to the schools’ first of two regular season matchups this season.

“It’s definitely been on the minds of the seniors,” he said. “You never want to lose to the team up north, you definitely never want to lose to them at home, so we’re going to take care of that, we’re going to do everything in our power to prepare for them and come out and take care of business.”

Thompson cited “little stuff” such as closing out halves, second-chance points, rebounds and defensive rotations as details that cost the Buckeyes in last season’s two matchups with Michigan.

The Wolverines, who advanced to the Elite 8 in last year’s NCAA Tournament, have won four of their last five games following a four-game losing streak. That streak began with a loss at home against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who had never faced or beaten a ranked opponent before that game.

However, they have turned it on recently, though their three Big Ten wins were against teams with a combined 1-10 conference record.

Michigan is led by junior guard Caris LeVert, an All-Big Ten second team selection last season. He currently leads the Wolverines in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, and is tied for the team lead in blocks.

Tip-off against Michigan is set for 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.

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