Surprising Blowout Loss to Indiana Leaves Thad Matta, Ohio State Searching For Answers

By Tim Shoemaker on January 10, 2016 at 5:17 pm
Ohio State's bench.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — As Indiana’s Collin Hartman received a pass from Yogi Ferrell and rose into the air to launch an uncontested 3-pointer early in the second half Sunday afternoon, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta stood on the opposite end of the floor in front of his team’s bench with his arms crossed.

The ball floated through the air for what probably felt like forever for Matta and as Hartman’s 3-pointer splashed through the basket and the raucous Assembly Hall crowd of 16,382 erupted with arguably its loudest ovation of the day, Matta, stoic in the face and arms still folded, did not flinch.

There wasn’t much he could do on this day. Ohio State was not going to beat Indiana.

“When you’re in coaching long enough, every now and then you have a game like this,” Matta said afterward. "To say it’s your worst nightmare, this was. We just didn’t have it today.”

The Hoosiers outplayed the Buckeyes in every aspect of Sunday’s game in their 85-60 blowout victory. In the process, Indiana moved to 4-0 in the Big Ten and extended its winning streak to nine while Ohio State fell to 3-1 in the league and had its seven-game winning streak snapped.

The Hoosiers scored the game’s first 10 points and it was seemingly over after that as Indiana held a monstrous 30-point lead at halftime, 48-18. The Buckeyes couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean — they shot 28 percent from the field in the first half, 39.3 percent for the game — and couldn’t get a stop on the other end as the Hoosiers seemingly got whatever they desired on offense.

“They got some shots to fall early and we just couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Ohio State junior forward Marc Loving said.

Added freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle, who was the lone bright spot for the Buckeyes with a career-high 29 points and eight rebounds: “They had a great game. We started off slow and then after that they just kept it going and kept rolling.”

The result was somewhat stunning because of how well Ohio State was playing coming into Sunday, particularly on defense. The Buckeyes were allowing just 59.1 points per game and opponents were shooting only 34.6 percent from the field throughout their seven-game winning streak.

Nothing went right for Ohio State on Sunday, though, as Indiana exposed the Buckeyes.

“Literally I was just searching for something to say to see if we could pull ourselves out of this,” Matta said. “I don’t think I’ve been in that position too much.”

On Friday, Matta said he always has a worry with this year’s team about the possibility of laying an egg on the road. Ohio State is young, inexperienced and hasn't really been through the ringer just yet to experience life in the Big Ten.

“I think that with this team, in a lot of ways it’s Day 1 every day,” Matta said Friday.

It showed against the Hoosiers.

The worry now, of course, for Matta and Co. is that this loss snowballs into more bad games going forward. The Buckeyes return home to host Rutgers on Wednesday before back-to-back road games against Maryland and Purdue — two of the top teams in the Big Ten.

Ohio State won’t be favored in either of those road contests, but it’s important it at least plays better than it did Sunday against Indiana.

“We’ve just gotta take practice seriously, film seriously and try to learn from our mistakes,” Loving said. “Just gotta wash it down the drain and get prepared for the next game.”

Matta said afterward he felt his team was well prepared going into the game so his puzzled looks upon the game’s completion told the whole tale. He didn’t have a lot of answers for what transpired in the hours prior. Games like Sunday’s rarely happen to Matta, now in his 12th season at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes' 20-point loss to Connecticut on Dec. 12 was the team's low point of the season up until Sunday and Ohio State rattled off seven-straight wins after that first flop. What the Buckeyes do this time around, after this 25-point defeat, could determine the rest of this team's season.

“Obviously I wish I knew the answers, but I think this is — for whatever reason, I don’t know why, it just wasn’t clicking,” Matta said. “As I told the guys, ‘We’ve got to learn from this, but at the same time we’ve got to get back to who we are and playing our best basketball.’”

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