It wasn’t how the Ohio State men’s basketball team wanted to send out its five seniors.
But when the clock hit zero on Sunday at the Schottenstein Center, the Buckeyes were on the wrong end of a 72-48 blowout against the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers on senior day.
“You don’t want to go out this way,” senior guard Shannon Scott said. “But we have got to put it behind us now. We know they’re a great team, we knew they were going to come here ready to play, but it’s a new season now.”
OSU coach Thad Matta said the loss came as a slight shock to him, as he thought the Buckeyes had perhaps the best practice he had seen in his 11 years as a coach in Columbus the day before the game.
“Honest to God, we had maybe the greatest practice I have ever had in March,” Matta said. “I actually went home and slept pretty well. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen.”
Scott, who finished his final game at the Schottenstein Center with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, said the Buckeyes need to put the loss behind them and set their sights on the Big Ten Tournament, scheduled to start in Chicago on Wednesday.
“We have no choice but to shake it off,” he said. “If we don’t shake it off right now, we’re gonna lose our very next game.”
Despite the shellacking handed down by the Badgers, the Buckeyes earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament, and are set to take on the winner of Minnesota vs. Rutgers in the final Thursday night matchup.
OSU, which holds a perfect 2-0 record against those teams this season, would face Michigan State if it could pull out a victory in its first game.
With the conference table set, OSU coach Thad Matta said he hopes to get better production from his seniors, who shot just 6-of-24 collectively from the field in their final home game.
“I think that experience is huge in March,” Matta said. “I want to get those guys playing their best basketball down this stretch and playing with a chip on their shoulder.”
Not only will Matta need better production from his seniors, but also from his freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, who said after the loss that he is not sure what to expect now that tournament play is here.
“I don’t know anything about March, but I know anything can happen,” Russell said. “So I know just keeping the right attitude as a team and as a unit and a collective group, just keeping it free and an open mind that anything can happen, I feel like we’ll be successful.”
Matta said although Russell hasn’t appeared in a post-season game in college, the Louisville, Ky., native has plenty of experience playing in big games.
“I think he will be fine,” Matta said. “The guy has won two high school national championships before he got here. He knows what’s at stake and he will be ready to go.”
What’s at stake for the Buckeyes is not only an opportunity to impress the voters for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, but also a chance at Big Ten supremacy. OSU has not won the Big Ten regular season title outright since 2011, and has not won a share since 2012.
The Buckeyes did, however, take home the Big Ten Tournament hardware in 2013, the last time the conference tournament was played in Chicago.
Four of OSU’s current five seniors were on that championship team, and three contributed to the title win two years ago.
Matta said because of that experience, he still has faith in the Buckeyes and the senior class.
“We’ve had great success in the Big Ten Tournament over our years here,” he said. “We have had great success in the NCAA Tournament. We need them.”