By Matt McCoy
After Ohio State suffered its third straight loss, last Thursday to Minnesota, I was asked by WTVN morning show host Joel Riley if Buckeye fans should start to panic. My answer was yes and no...Yes--if you're expecation was that this team was going to win a Big Ten title...but no, if you were just looking for a good, top 20 type-team that remains relevent nationally and has the potential of being dangerous in March.
Monday night, the Buckeyes lost 68-62 at Nebraska--a team that had dropped five in a row and lost to Ohio State by 31 just two weeks earlier. It extends the Ohio State losing streak to four---its longest in six years and drops the Buckeyes to eighth place in the Big Ten.
It's official...now it's time to panic.
The Buckeyes continue to struggle offensively, shooting just 39 percent from the floor versus the Huskers--including a miserable 32 percent in the first half, when at one point, they trailed by 14.
The top three scorers for the Buckeyes, LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith and Aaron Craft, were a combined 10-30 shooting and committed seven turnovers. Craft had four of those turnovers including two in the last five minutes. He's turned the ball over 19 times during the four game skid.
"There's probably some panic going on with the Ohio State coaching staff because it's not like they have two great players that are scoring 20 to 25 points a game and everybody else on the team stinks," 610 WTVN basketball analyst Tony White said on our post-game Basketball Bucksline Monday. "It's their best players who are not doing it on the offensive end...The guys that they say 'get the ball in his hands, we need a bucket'....those guys can't score."
But it's not just the offense. Nebraska shot 56 percent in the first half and 50 percent for the game and when you add defensive concerns to the list of issues for the Buckeyes, you're in trouble.
"This team has always been up and down on the offensive end but you did expect to see them consistent on defense and that's where I know there's panic setting in," Tony said. "They're hesitant on the offensive end, they lack confidence and they're pressing and I think that's showing up on defense...Right now, they're trying to do too much on the defensive end...they're trying to get a steal on every pass and it's getting them out of position and it's leading to easy baskets for opposing teams."
To say that Ohio State's next game Thursday against Illinois is must win, is an understatement. The Buckeyes, 15-0 and ranked No. 3 nationally two weeks ago, are suddenly on the NCAA tournament bubble. They're resume lacks a signature win and now includes a bad loss and the schedule only gets tougher. After home games versus the Illini and Penn State, Ohio State opens February with back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Iowa.
"What they need is a win...they need a win where they make some shots," Tony said. "If they can make some shots in a game, they're going to start to trust their offense again and they'll stop trying to make all these circus plays and they'll just run their offense and take good shots."
If there was a positive Monday, it was Bucksline. Tony and I were joined by 610 WTVN's and Sportsrappup.com's Jeff Rapp. It was a rare opportunity for us to give immediate reaction to a game. Thanks to all of the lively phone calls and tweets. Despite the outcome of the game, it was a fun show. If you missed it, check it out by clicking here: