For the first time since he described himself as “dumbfounded” after Ohio State blew a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds of a one-point home loss to Nebraska on Saturday, coach Thad Matta spoke publicly on his weekly call-in show.
Here are the highlights:
*Here’s Matta’s opening thoughts on the loss: “I was anxious to watch the tape from the standpoint of I haven’t been in many games like that and really struggled to come to grips with what had just happened. Sometimes you have those losses like that. I had sold our guys out of Tuesday night’s game that we were going to win this game. That one got me a little bit in terms of going home, sitting down, taking a look at it. Even the things in the first half we didn’t do well, some of the plays down the stretch we didn’t make and Nebraska did make, a little bit tough to stomach. I’m glad we’ve got an extra day to get ready for the next one.”
Ohio State had fouls to give in the final minute, and it did but still allowed the game-winning free throw on a foul.
“We had three fouls to give, and we fouled the first time,” Matta said. “The second time we actually didn’t foul. The third foul on the drive, I didn’t see the foul but neither here nor there. We had some key turnovers down the stretch, just from the not valuing the basketball as much as we should’ve. On the jump ball situation, we got it to Kam… probably could’ve made a little bit better read. There was a lot of grabbing going on there.”
*Matta took a submitted question asking about positives that have happened with this team this year.
“After Saturday nothing,” he joked. “We’re getting some young guys playing time. I was talking with a friend of mine this morning in the business world how you must learn through adversity. One of the biggest positives of the season is Keita’s surgery went well. He’s one I grab after every game and we sit down and talk about what we see. With this team, the stretch we’ve been through, you hope as you go into another season you’re getting yourself mentally prepared not to let these things happen again in terms of getting down on the road or a big lead in the first half and not be able to keep it.”
The injury “affected so much in terms of our offense and our defense. He’s walking now. I can’t believe he has a rod in his leg.”
Bates-Diop is doing a few things to start rehabbing, including “the heaviest lifting program” the Buckeyes can have for him. The goal is to have him develop more of an inside presence next season than we’ve seen in the past while getting his three-point percentage around 43-44 percent.
*With 10 Big Ten losses, the Buckeyes are in new territory under Matta. What is he doing now as a coach to approach the situation?
“Just trying to get these guys to really think the game and value the possessions and not get emotionally too high or too low,” he said. “We just need more of a steady calm to us. You’ve got to be thinking the situations. This team has sometimes we hang onto things way too long and it affects the next plays. Those are the things we’ve got to continue to grow on.”
*Matta said Nebraska coach Tim Miles called him to talk to Greg Paulus because Ed Morrow had the same injury Paulus had at Duke.
*Kam Williams was 1 for 7 from the floor in the loss. Asked about Williams’ looks in the game, Matta drew a comparison.
“I remember Je’Kel Foster went through a shooting slump at the end of his senior year,” he said. “I remember I had this lucky clover somebody gave me and I had Je’Kel rubbing it with his hand. With Kam, he had some good looks. I think he over-penetrated a couple of times when he probably didn’t need to and got it knocked away. He’s still in the gym right now probably shooting. We need him to make shots.”
*Ohio State got back to practice today after being off Sunday. The Buckeyes looked at video again and did a lot of conditioning and focus on offensive execution, Matta said. Evan Turner was there, too, talking about old times with this team.
*Matta said he pulled C.J. Jackson aside at halftime for some advice.
“Let’s calm this thing down,” he said. “We’re not going to change what happened in the first half. He was not very good and he’d be the first to tell you that. He came out and played with great intelligence and did a great job with it. I’ll swear at some point he’ll knock those threes down at a higher rate than he is. That opens up so much of our offense when he’s making those shots. He was in there for 30 minutes after practice getting extra shots up.”
*Asked about JaQuan Lyle’s ankle, Matta said there’s still swelling and soreness in it and he’s listed on the injury report.
*Matta said he told Micah Potter the other day after a great practice he’s not having “an F.F.” year. Stands for “February Freshman.” Matta wants him to improve on ball-screen defense and getting a wider base in the post and be able to take the hits.
He also mentioned Potter as a future stretch-4 or stretch-5. In practice, Potter has shown some ability to put the ball on the floor a little bit. Matta said Potter looks after his diet and eats at the same time every day.
*Ohio State lost a point in the Rutgers game when Williams hit a three-pointer from well beyond the arc that was changed to a two-point shot. Matta said he asked the league to look into it, and a response came back: the league has no idea what happened or how the Buckeyes lost out on a point.
*After playing Wisconsin on Thursday, the Buckeyes will probably have Friday off. Matta said this is a big recruiting period for the coaches and this upcoming weekend will be a busy one for them.
*For a second time this season, the call-in show featured no calls.