In the most important time of the year and a time that college basketball players dream about, the Basketball Buckeyes were a nightmare. Playing the last place team in the Big Ten, Ohio State was out-hustled, out-worked and out-played, losing 66-57 to Rutgers at the Big Ten Tournament in Washington D.C. The loss could mean and end to a disappointing Buckeye season. At 17-15, Ohio State might get a bid to the NIT or some other tournament, but after the game, Coach Thad Matta (during the interview below, filmed by Steve Helwagen of Bucknuts & 24-7 sports) said he was unsure he would even accept a post-season invite.
The game Wednesday night was all too familiar to those who follow Ohio State. The Buckeyes seemed to lack energy and focus. They were out rebounded 47-31, outscored by Rutgers on second chance points 22-6, shot only 24 percent from the floor in the second half and missed 13 free throws, going 15-28 for the game (53%).
"We were awful and I don't know why," Matta said, "We weren't sharp, we weren't focused, I mean 19 offensive rebounds (by Rutgers) is a joke. We just never manned up to the level we needed to and it's hard to win that way."
The disappointing loss came only hours after Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith released a statement expressing confidence and Matta and ending speculation that there might be a coaching change.
"I think it's ridiculous that we have to (release a statement). Gene and I met a couple weeks ago and it's amazing what people do nowadays. This is a very fickle business that we're in and unless you're intimately involved on a day-to-day basis, people choose the negative side of things and then gas is poured on a fire," Matta said. "It's sad that sports has come to where you have to do stuff like that. Just coach your team and if they like it, they bring you back and if they don't, they don't."
Matta will not be the only one back next year. He loses senior Marc Loving but the rest of the team presumably is back. JaQuan Lyle said after the game that he would be back. One player that was not as definitive was big man Trevor Thompson, who tested the NBA waters last year. He said he had not thought about his future yet and was only thinking about the loss.
"It's just unacceptable...it really is," Thompson said of the Buckeye performance. "I apologize to all of the Buckeye fans and Buckeye Nation because this right here isn't what you come to Ohio State for...this isn't who we are."
Here's post-game video comments from Matta and Thompson, again, courtesy of Steve Helwagen of Bucknuts and 24-7, sports.