No magic wand was brought to the first Ohio State men’s basketball practice after Saturday’s loss at Iowa. No simple answers are in the offing for a Buckeyes team that will carry a three-game losing streak into Friday’s home game against No. 16 Maryland.
Instead, there have been some harsh realities now that a 12-1 start to the season is fading into memory.
“The more we’ve watched film of the last three games, the more we’ve noticed that we’ve been off a little bit,” graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods said. “That’s what we’ve been doing since the Iowa game. We’ve been focusing on who we are, getting back to being that tough-minded team that everybody always said that we were.”Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
A number of factors are in play for the Buckeyes. Now firmly into conference play, coach Chris Holtmann pointed out that a team heavily reliant on freshmen and sophomores is acclimating to more-detailed scouting reports. The level of competition is obviously higher, too — even the Rutgers team that beat the Buckeyes on Jan. 9 for its only win in six Big Ten games.
Surprisingly, though, Holtmann’s main focus hasn’t been his usual one: defense.
“We were just looking at some of the fundamental things we have to do better,” he said. “A lot of video, a lot of film review. I think that was probably as important as anything, is just having a chance to watch some video together here. We’ve looked at some things offensively that we need to do better, as well as our defensive stuff. It was really across the board, but our biggest concern here of late has been our offense.”
Thursday afternoon, Woods, Holtmann and former walk-on Joey Lane were tasked with explaining what’s gone wrong lately and how — or whether — it can be turned around in the thick of the deepest Big Ten in recent memory. Lane, lauded by his coaches and teammates for his impact in practice and keeping morale high, said the Buckeyes have been reminded how much they need to be connected in order to start winning again.
Holtmann said he remains optimistic about this team’s potential. Lane said spirits have been high despite the recent losses.
“You’d think it would be hard, but we’ve got a great group of guys,” Lane said. “They’re very energetic, very positive and always willing to put in the work. We’ve had probably two of our best practices these past two days in terms of competing and playing hard and being upbeat and positive.”
Confidence, though, might be another issue. Some players have seen significant statistical drop-offs during the losses to Michigan State, Rutgers and Iowa, and Holtmann said he’s preaching hope and optimism more than he had to when Ohio State was winning 12 of its first 13 games.
Woods, who in particular has seen his production decline, was part of a Wake Forest team last season that lost seven straight games at one point. He said he’s not worried.
“Once you lose the confidence and everybody stops believing, that’s when things will really spiral out of control,” Woods said. “We hit a rut, and the only way we get out of it is if we come together as a team, starting (Friday), and play like we know we can play and win this game (Friday).”