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By Matt McCoy
(Photo courtesy of Associated Press)
To listen to Thad Matta after the win over Indiana click HERE:
To listen to Aaron Craft following the Buckeye win over the Hoosiers click HERE:
Since losing by 22 points at Wisconsin February 17, the Basketball Buckeyes have won four in a row, none bigger than the 67-58 upset at No. 2 Indiana Tuesday night.
"The biggest thing that this win does for us is it shows us what happens when we play together as a team," guard Aaron Craft said. "It shows us what happens when we believe in one another and trust in one another. We don't need one guy to try to do everything. Everyone kind of plays their role, believes in what the coaches are telling us and our system and that's what makes us the best basketball team we can be."
And they were that and then-some against the Hoosiers, who were held to a season low 58 points and shot just 39 percent.
It was a game when every Buckeye who participated made positive plays. The headliners were Craft, with 15 points, 4 assists and 4 steals, and Deshaun Thomas who again struggled with his shot, just 6-17, but again made key plays late, including a dagger 3-pointer with 3:15 to go that extended the Buckeye lead to 11. But what's encouraging about this Buckeye team right now is that the supporting cast is getting better and better.
Shannon Scott was outstanding, with 8 points, 3 assists and 4 steals. Evan Ravenel had 8 points and 6 rebounds. When Thomas struggled early, Sam Thompson stepped up scoring all 9 of his points in the first half. Lenzelle Smith, while scoring only 5 points, spent most of the game defending Indiana's Victor Oladipo who finished with only 7.
"I'm proud of this basketball team," Thad Matta said. "We were knocked down and kind of kicked to the ground and they've picked themselves up and responded at a pretty high level."
It's a level that will take the Buckeyes into the final day of the regular season Sunday, with a chance at a fourth consecutive Big Ten title. I outlined a week ago, these eight steps that had to happen for the Buckeyes to win a title share:
Minnesota upsets Indiana (check)...Michigan is upset by either Penn State or Purdue (check)...Ohio State beats Northwestern (check)...Wisconsin is either upset by Purdue or loses at Michigan State (check)...Michigan beats Michigan State (check)...Ohio State upsets Indiana (check)...Ohio State beats Illinois...and Michigan beats Indiana.
Six down, two to go.
Other than the loss at Wisconsin, Illinois is responsible for Ohio State's most embarrassing loss, a 19-point setback in January. The Buckeyes hope to pay them back Sunday at 12:30. If they do, they'll gather around the T.V. to see if they can get help from the Wolverines. It would be role reversal from last year, when it was Michigan who watched--and earned a title share thanks to William Buford's hoop that beat Michigan State.
"Coach Beilein told me before we played in the conference tournament last year that he'd never seen a group of Michigan guys root so hard (for Ohio State) when Buford made the shot," Matta told us at interviews Monday, before the Indiana game. "Obviously if it comes to that, we'll be rooting for them."
We're a win over Illinois away from seeing it.
Kellogg calls criticism of Matta "ludicrous"
It wasn't long ago that critics of Thad Matta were coming out of the woodwork. If you've listened to Bucksline with any regularity, you've heard the calls and e-mails questioning everything from Matta's game strategy, to his preparation, to his recruiting.
Well the upset win over Indiana improves Matta's record in the month of March to 46-12...the best among Big 10 coaches.
CBS analyst and former Buckeye Clark Kellogg visited with WTVN's Joel Riley Tuesday morning and was asked about the heat that Matta sometimes gets.
"If you start going into your top 10 coaches (nationally) you've got to put Thad in there. What is your criteria? It's consistancy of excellence," Kellogg said. "Two Final Fours, a national championship game, multiple Big Ten titles, managing his program and his players exceptionally well, representing the University at a high level...I mean when you look at the full body of what's transpired under his leadership, it's comical that people would even wonder how good of a coach he is. That's just farcical to me, it's absolutely ludicrous. This guy's one of the best."
Kellogg also gave his take on the Buckeye win over the Hoosiers.
"The resolve they showed was really a champions mentality and resolve," Kellogg said. "They played like they were champions."
It was a terrific interview. To hear Joel's conversation with Clark, click HERE:
Spring Ball Begins
To hear Urban Meyer after the first spring practice click HERE:
The football Buckeyes are officially underway in spring football, holding their first practice Tuesday.
"What I'm concerned with is just the development of players and after day one I can't give you a whole lot," Meyer said. "We did have a good attitude. Some guys like Tyvis Powell and (Corey) Pittsburgh Brown and some other guys had good days."
Among the 'other guys' that Meyer liked were Jordan Hall and Braxton Miller.
Hall was granted a medical redshirt after his foot and knee injuries last year limited him to only two games. He's moving from running back to slot receiver.
"He was great today," Meyer said. "I love that guy...he didn't bat an eye (over the position change.) We're starting to get guys who can make some plays."
As for Miller, the Big Ten MVP who will be in the spotlight this year, Meyer saw exactly what he wanted to see.
"I thought Braxton Miller had a heck of a day," Meyer said. "Fundamentally his foot work was not very good at times last year but I thought it was outstanding today."
Meyer also singled out Bradley Roby who intercepted two passes. The Buckeyes have meetings on Wednesday and return to the practice field Thursday.