Most top-tier basketball teams have the luxury of coming home to a state of the art locker room nowadays.
While the same can be said for the Ohio State men’s basketball team as they return home after suffering back-to-back road losses, the Nebraska Cornhuskers haven’t seen their lockers in days.
After a 74-46 drubbing from Iowa on Sunday, Nebraska coach Tim Miles banned his players from the friendly confines of the Cornhusker facilities.
While some might think that style of motivation is drastic, OSU coach Thad Matta said it doesn’t surprise him.
“You would be shocked at how many coaches do that. You hear coaches talk about doing that all the time. I think from that perspective, as a coach, you are doing everything you can,” Matta said Wednesday. “At times, you almost feel like you are begging guys in a certain point of a season to do their best.”
Nebraska is set to travel to Columbus to take on OSU at the Schottenstein Center on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Buckeyes, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, are set to play three of their last four regular season games at home before heading to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament.
Senior forward Sam Thompson, a Chicago native, said while it is nice to be returning home, the recent losses are unacceptable.
“Obviously it feels different being on the road than it does being at home. But that in no way justifies the way that we came out to play some of these road games that we had,” Thompson said. “No matter where we are playing, no matter who we’re playing, our goal is to come out and play our best basketball.”
Matta agreed with Thompson and added that he, more than anyone, wants to see his players get back on the right track against Nebraska.
“Nobody in the world understands that the No. 1 person that wants his players to play their best is not their family, it’s not their (Amateur Athletic Union) coach, it’s the head coach and our lives are tied to it,” he said. “All I want to do tomorrow night is play our best basketball and compete and play with toughness and get the job done.”
The Buckeyes and Cornhuskers are set to do battle for the first and only time this regular season after splitting the regular season matchups last year.
OSU beat Nebraska in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament, overcoming an 18-point deficit, and Matta said he expects a similar team to come to Columbus on Thursday night.
“I saw them play two games ago against Maryland at Maryland and you are watching them play and you are saying, ‘These guys are probably first or second in the Big Ten,’” Matta said. “They looked unbelievable. They are a rough, tough physical basketball team. Smashmouth on defense and we gotta execute our offense, we gotta move ‘em. Defensively, they’ve got a couple guys, and we’ve seen this first hand, that can go for 35 on you if you’re not ready to defend.”
Perhaps one of those players Matta was talking about was junior guard Terran Petteway, who scored a career-high 35 points against Minnesota as a sophomore.
This season, Petteway ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring with 18.2 points per game, to go along with five boards per game, which ranks him second on Nebraska’s roster.
Much like OSU freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, Petteway dominates the basketball on offense, as he leads his team in both points and assists.
Russell, despite leading the Buckeyes in scoring, turned the ball over five times in a loss to Michigan on Sunday. Matta said, however, he doesn’t think it is because Russell is trying to do too much.
“I think you got to give sometimes the defenses credit. If he and Shannon are out there, whoever gets it or gets the outlet (pass) can push the transition,” Matta said. “(But) if he can get it and make a play, I am good with that.”
While Russell and the Buckeyes have not been kicked out of their locker room, Matta joked the idea is not too farfetched.
“I’ll tell you what, a couple of years ago they were doing ours (renovating the locker rooms) and we were in some side locker room and we were playing our asses off. Maybe we need to go back over there,” he said.