Ohio State's NCAA Tournament hopes aren't dead just yet, but the Buckeyes still have plenty of work to do to earn a bid and Thad Matta knows it.
Fresh off coaching his team to its biggest conference win of the season against Iowa on Sunday to move it to 19-11 overall and 11-6 in the Big Ten, Matta sat down with Ron Stokes and Paul Keels on 97.1 The Fan Monday for his weekly radio show.
The Buckeyes play at Michigan State in the regular season finale Saturday. Tipoff is set for noon.
- Matta said the team met Monday and discussed the film from the 68-64 victory against the Hawkeyes, both the good and the bad: "Definitely a good win for us. It was a good way to close it out here in the Schott."
- After the victory, Matta said the onus is on his team to continue moving forward off a massive victory: "We have to keep building and building and building with this team."
- Matta said he thought Ohio State's transition defense was "probably" the best it could have been against Iowa.
- Matta joked about making his team do pushups or sprints at halftime in order to keep the energy levels high through the intermission, because Ohio State started the second half against Iowa with three straight turnovers: "We can't do that."
- On preparing his young team for a hostile environment Saturday at Michigan State: "It is what it is, but that's why you go to the UConns and play the Kentuckys early in the season."
- Matta said in December he pumped in crowd noise during practice to try and simulate a loud environment, and his team "couldn't even go 5-on-0."
- Sunday was Ohio State's first victory without its "anchor," sophomore forward Jae'Sean Tate: "I thought guys did a good job of providing more leadership."
- Matta said Marc Loving made one of the best plays of the game Sunday on Mike Gesell's final drive to the hoop before Keita Bates-Diop's block. Loving was guarding a shooter in the corner and faked like he was going to step in front of Gesell before guarding the corner, causing him to hesitate and allow Bates-Diop to catch up.
- On Kam Williams, Matta said the two of them had a very "one-sided conversation" in the first half and halftime that was the coach telling the player he needed more from him: "It was nice to see him step up and know I can lay into him a little bit for him to respond."
- Matta said the double foul Sunday "was an odd call," but did admit Ohio State had a few fouls against Iowa that were ill-advised. He felt his team gave the Hawkeyes too many opportunities to get to the free-throw line.
- Tate got out of the hospital Sunday before the game, Matta said. The team gave him the game ball via FaceTime afterwards, but Matta said he wasn't sure if he would remember it because he is still on pain medication: "I read a text he sent me at 1:45 a.m. to the team before the game that was quite funny."
- On Michigan State, who beat Ohio State by 19 last week: "We have to play better. It's that simple."
- Matta said he was happy with how his team rebounded in the first game against the Spartans, but obviously its perimeter defense was lacking. The Spartans made 64 percent of their looks from beyond the arc against the Buckeyes.
- Matta said when Bryn Forbes plays well, Michigan State plays well. Forbes made 7-of-10 3-pointers against Ohio State in the first meeting between the two teams.
- In the final timeout of the first half, Matta implored with his team to play "as smart as we possibly can for four minutes." Ohio State closed on a 9-2 run to lead by five at half.
- Matta feels his team is "making strides in the right direction" in moving on past mistakes and not letting it compound to more and spiral out of control.
- Mickey Mitchell had career-highs in points and rebounds against Iowa. Matta believes he's getting more comfortable with each passing day.
- Mitchell "sees things through a different lens," Matta said, but he's still pleading with him that it is OK to look at the guy he's passing to: "Simplicity is the easiest thing you can do."