How does this Ohio State losing streak compare to prior ones in program history?

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

The situation Ohio State finds itself in is as uncomfortable as it is familiar.

When the final seconds ticked off of Sunday afternoon’s showdown inside Jersey Mike’s Arena, Rutgers was celebrating a revenge win and Ohio State was left to lament a fourth straight loss. After opening Big Ten play with two wins, the Buckeyes will now go to Nebraska on Wednesday in hopes of stopping their losing streak from reaching five games. Most recently, it was a 68-64 loss to the Scarlet Knights in overtime.

It’s the fourth time during coach Chris Holtmann’s six seasons that the Buckeyes have lost at least four straight. This time, it happened in early January. Last time, Ohio State closed the 2020-21 regular season with a four-game slide before reaching the Big Ten tournament title game.

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Ohio State self-scouts after each season, but Holtmann said the annual analysis hasn’t yielded any common threads that could specifically help this year’s team – just two general realizations.

“You’re playing in a really good league,” Holtmann said. “We looked at it a couple years ago after we struggled in January but we’ve also been really good in January last year and struggled late. We’ve had times where we’ve been really good late and then struggled. I don’t know if there’s a specific pattern or factors other than we just need to play better.”

In the past 50 years of Ohio State men’s basketball, including this season, the Buckeyes have endured at least a four-game losing streak in 21 seasons – or 42% of the time. The best coach at avoiding them was Jim O’Brien, who suffered through a 17-game losing streak in his first season (1997-98) but did not have another one during his seven years with the program. Thad Matta had four seasons with at least a four-game losing streak: 2007-08, 2013-14, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Randy Ayers also had five seasons with a losing streak of at least four games during his eight-year tenure. His time at Ohio State ended by losing at least four straight in all but the 1993-94 season during his final five years culminating with the 1996-97 season.

This is the first four-game losing streak with each final margin being in single digits since the 2015-16 team lost four straight non-conference games by a combined 24 points. Ohio State’s past four losses have been by a total of 16 points, an average margin of defeat of 4.0 points per game.

“Like anything, it tests the character of your group and the resilience of your group,” Holtmann said. “We’ll see how we respond. Obviously it’s a significant remainder of the Big Ten season to go. There’s a lot in front of us. Your leadership, your resilience, the tough-mindedness of your group gets tested.”

Ohio State basketball:What has gone wrong for Ohio State on this three-game losing streak?

Among the four losing streaks of at least four games during the Holtmann era (the 2018-19 team lost five straight), only the 2019-20 team shot worse during its streak. That team was 72 for 214 (33.6%) from the floor while losing to West Virginia in Cleveland, at home to Wisconsin and at Maryland and Indiana by a combined 34 points (8.5 per game).

In its past four games, Ohio State is 100 for 244 (41.0%) from the floor as the offense has stagnated. The Buckeyes have assisted on 31 of those field goals, the lowest rate in a four-game losing streak and a significant contributing factor. They’ve also shot 43.3% from 3 on only 67 attempts, the highest percentage and lowest number of 3-pointers taken during any of the streaks.

Ohio State’s past four losses have been by a total of 16 points, an average margin of defeat of 4.0 points per game.

Zed Key and Justice Sueing, two of this year’s captains, were primary rotation players on the 2020-21 team. Sueing said that team was able to emerge from the streak and reach the Big Ten tournament title game because it believed in each other and stuck together.

The biggest difference, Sueing said, is when this streak has taken place.

“We stayed strong in the locker room,” he said. “We didn’t let outside noise affect us and we went on that great run in the Big Ten tournament. It’s a little similar to what’s going on now, I feel like. Every team’s going to face adversity, a little bit of a drought. I’m glad it’s happening now than at the end of the season.”

Now the job is ending it. The 2018-19 Buckeyes, who finished 20-15 overall, went 28 days without a victory while losing five straight games: home against Michigan State, at Rutgers and Iowa and home against Maryland and Purdue.

They snapped it with a win at Nebraska, where Ohio State plays Wednesday night.


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