One game in a 30-game regular season shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of a college basketball season let alone a coaching career. However, there are games that are the perfect snapshot of what is going right or wrong for the future of the program.
Thursday night’s 89-66 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Kohl Center was one such night — and clearly not in a good way. Ohio State was dominated from start, to middle, to end as the Buckeyes moved to 0-4 in Big Ten conference play.
It’s been a slow, steady and painful march to this butt-kicking too. After all, the Buckeyes have gone from losing by a combined six points in the first two games of league play to getting dominated by 10 on the road at Minnesota and today’s 33-point loss at Wisconsin.
There’s rarely shame in losing at the Kohl Center, and Thad Matta is well aware of that, but it is the how this one happened and the how of the decline of the Buckeyes program over the last year-plus that should be troubling.
When was the last time Ohio State was thrashed around inside like they didn’t even matter? It happened against the Badgers, who dominated the post to the tune of 42-22 in points in the paint and 28-9 in second chance points.
When was the last time you remember a Buckeyes team just flat-out giving up physically? It happened against the Badgers, as UW dominated the boards 44-31 and used 12 Buckeyes turnovers to create 16 points on the other end.
When was the last time Ohio State allowed a team to shoot from 50 percent beyond the arc? It has actually only happened just 28 times coming in to this game in the Matta era, with the Buckeyes holding a respectable 12-16 record. On Thursday, Wisconsin, who just got done going ice-cold from three-point range against Purdue, put on a three-point shooting clinic.
UW hit 12 of 22 from beyond the arc for 55 percent on the night, and it wasn’t just Bronson Koenig either. Sure, he was a crazy 5 of 7 (for 21 points in total), but the rest of the team was 7 of 15 (46.6 percent) as well. Meanwhile Ohio State couldn’t respond, going just 5 of 20 from three-point range itself.
So, on Thursday night the Buckeyes couldn’t shoot from beyond the arc, hold an opponent in check down low or compete well on the boards. Got it.
Last time I checked, those were all hallmarks of a successful Thad Matta team at Ohio State. Yet, this team and the last few have seen a steady decline in ability down low and quality on the perimeter.
Some will point to the loss of star Keita Bates-Diop to a season-ending injury as a reason for the issues at hand. It may be the case that they miss him, but all good Ohio State teams under Thad Matta have been more than one player.
If Bates-Diop is that important to OSU’s success, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of what is happening these days under Matta.
We’ll see if the Buckeyes can rebound, but if the lifeless team that came out on Thursday night at the Kohl Center continues to come out the rest of this season it should be time for Gene Smith to say buh-bye to Matta.
Something has to change, and unfortunately, nothing Matta has done in the past two seasons has indicated change is happening in the positive direction. After all, this is a program that hasn’t gotten out of the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament since the 2012-13 season and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last season.
It was a nice run while it lasted, but given Ohio State’s long-term success as a basketball program, this type of play is wholly unacceptable.