By Matt McCoy
After his Buckeyes slept through a 22-point blowout loss at Wisconsin, Thad Matta got together with video coordinator Greg Paulus looking for something...anything that might help his team get back its edge. What he found was Super Bowl Champion linebacker Ray Lewis.
"I don't know a whole lot of what goes on in the world but I kept hearing that guy's name during (the NFL playoffs)," Matta said after Ohio State bounced back from their Wisconsin embarrassment by thumping Minnesota 71-45.
Matta and Paulus found a video (posted below) of Lewis speaking to the Stanford basketball team. The theme was effort...something that was lacking in Madison.
"It was unique," Matta said of the Lewis speech. "In terms of the messages he had and talking about effort and that sort of thing."
The message apparently got through to the Buckeyes who dominated the hustle stats Wednesday night, forcing 24 Minnesota turnovers, had 10 steals and five blocked shots.
Guard Shannon Scott had three steals and three blocks to go along with 11 points and five assists in what may have been the best game of his Buckeye career.
"We had a lot of energy tonight," Scott said. "I think against Wisconsin we were just out there. We weren't really doing our jobs and being ourselves. We were just playing basketball. This game we came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and we were able to feed off that."
Whether it was the Lewis video or Matta's tough approach the last few days of practice it worked against Minnesota....but that's just one game. No. 4 Michigan State comes to town Sunday. What's Matta's message now?
"You can't relax, in terms of (thinking) we're back," Matta said. "We're not that good. We've got to continue to come in every day, practice hard, continue to learn and find ways to get better."
The Bench Brigade
Part of Ohio State's success against the Gophers had to do with the play of the bench. Scott's outstanding game led the way as the Buckeye reserves combined to score 31 points.
The whistles came early, and starters Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Amir Williams had two fouls within the first four minutes and Aaron Craft picked up an early foul as well. As a result, Matta went to his back-ups earlier than normal and they responded.
"The coaches sat me down and said 'we've practiced extremely hard the last couple days and guys are probably going to be a little tired so we may want to sub early,'" Matta said. "Then with the foul trouble (we had to) and I thought those guys did a phenominal job."
In addition to Scott's 11 points, LaQuinton Ross scored 10 and Evan Ravenel had four points with three rebounds and three steals.
But the most surprising development was freshman Amedeo Della Valle. When Matta made his first substitution, with 16:12 left in the first half, it was Della Valle who checked in for Craft.
"Amedeo has really, really played well the last couple weeks in practice," Matta said. "I like his energy, I like his basketball savvy and understanding of what we're trying to do and the biggest thing about that young man is he just cares. He cares so much about the team and guys like that have notoriously in this program done very well for us."
Della Valle had not played in the month of February until getting in the final 10 minutes in the loss at Wisconsin. He led the team in assists and blocked shots in the lopsided loss, then Wednesday night hit two 3-pointers. The six points are his Big Ten career high.
If you want to hear Coach Matta's post-game comments following the Minnesota win, click HERE: