Buckeyes Frustrated With 1-9 Stretch But Still Believe They’re “Not Far Off” From Getting Over the Hump to “Make A Push”

By Griffin Strom on February 8, 2023 at 8:35 am
Ohio State basketball
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch

Thursday night will be something of a full-circle moment for Ohio State, and not in a positive sense.

The Buckeyes appeared to be riding the crest of a wave the last time they played Northwestern on Jan. 1, but it crashed immediately thereafter. Ohio State’s been trying to swim to the shore ever since. With only one win to show for their past 10 performances, the Buckeyes’ season is on life support ahead of their rematch with the Wildcats, and it’s taken a toll on everyone involved.

Ohio State is holding out hope for resuscitation, but the window of opportunity to make any meaningful turnaround is rapidly closing – if it hasn’t been slammed shut already.

“It's tough for everybody on this team and the program in general. But regardless, there's still some season left and we can still make a push, man,” Justice Sueing said after Ohio State’s 77-69 loss to Michigan on Sunday. “So the hardest thing about it is just to continue to make sure that you stay level, stay consistent in our work ethic, our preparation, and that's all we can do. And we know that once we make those strides where we need to, we think we can make a really good run to end this season. So that's what our plan is.”

Sueing still believes in the talent on the Buckeye roster, even if it hasn’t resulted in much team success since the start of 2023. The sixth-year forward thinks small tweaks could go a long way in changing the Buckeyes’ game-to-game results.

But now on its second losing streak of four or more games since the first Northwestern matchup, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe Ohio State’s issues are minor ones.

“We just need to get better. That's what it is at the end of the day, man. This group is very talented, man,” Sueing said. “We keep saying it over and over again, but it's not a lie. It's the truth. This group's very special and we just keep coming up short on little things that make a big difference at the end of the day. And now we're gonna just continue to work and make sure that we get better because that's all we can do. Moving forward, taking one day at a time.”

Sueing isn’t the only Buckeye to share that viewpoint. Sean McNeil echoed the same sentiment in an interview session at the Schottenstein Center Tuesday, but he acknowledged that there isn’t a quick fix in one particular area that would solve all of Ohio State’s problems.

"We continue to say we're right there, we're not far off from getting over the hump."– Sean McNeil

“It's probably tough to pinpoint one thing. Good thing is that it's not been big things from each game. It's been easy things to correct,” McNeil said. “We just got to continue to get better, take it day by day. … It's definitely frustrating. But there's good things to take from each game. That's something that we continue to say, even in our previous game. Obviously it was unfortunate we lost, but there was some good things to take from the game. We'll watch it today and figure out what we need to do to get better.”

As of late, slow starts have become particularly prevalent for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have trailed at halftime in each of their past four games, including a 16-point deficit to Wisconsin at home, and never held a lead against the Badgers or Wolverines in their last two outings.

McNeil said trying to play catch-up for an entire game only makes it harder to maintain the type of consistent effort required to beat a Big Ten opponent.

“I think that in a stretch like this, it makes it a little bit more challenging, definitely,” McNeil said. “But the good thing is, I mean we continue to say we're right there, we're not far off from getting over the hump. We just need to continue to play for 40-plus minutes, whether that's 40 minutes or overtime or whatever it needs to take in order for us to get the job done.”

In the first Northwestern matchup, Ohio State came storming out of the gates. The Buckeyes held an 18-point advantage by the intermission and cruised to a 73-57 victory in Evanston. Chris Holtmann said last week that the Buckeyes tend to play harder when they’re behind, but McNeil thinks faster starts would remedy a lot of issues for Ohio State.

“It would be big, and I think that when we've done that in times before, we play a little bit more consistent – played a little bit better, too,” McNeil said. “Getting into a rhythm I think is the biggest thing. Obviously we'd love to be up and keep the lead. But instead of being so up and down like a roller coaster, just if we can get up and stay up. Teams are gonna make runs, but just being able to control them and figure out ways to slow them down a little bit is what we need to do.”

Eugene Brown said tough times have tested Ohio State’s togetherness, but in order to make the late run they’ve discussed, the Buckeyes will have to lean on each other more than ever. Brown said that’s been stressed all season, and maintaining cohesion will be key to collecting wins down the stretch.

“It's kind of just been like a challenge through the whole season. Just trying to stay connected, stay together through everything that's been going on,” Brown said. “It's just something we've kind of put emphasis on, just being out there trying to communicate. Just talking through it, talking through the rough patches, talking through the rough games. Just trying to stay connected, stay together.”

The Buckeyes may not even be playing for an NCAA Tournament berth anymore, barring a Big Ten Tournament win next month, but there’s still plenty of pride on the line for all parties involved.

Ohio State can restore some of that against a familiar foe on Thursday, and perhaps its first set of consecutive home games since December will aid in its pursuit.

“I'm hoping it could help us just get back on track, honestly,” Brown said. “Just playing at home, playing in front of your home crowd, just getting wins here. I feel like it'll boost the spirits.”

View 55 Comments