February 22, 2008

Little time left to fine tune

The Ohio State men's basketball team received a much needed "bye" period in the schedule with a week off from the Michigan loss to the upcoming home game against Wisconsin (4:00 p.m. ET - CBS Sports). While conventional wisdom says that a team would want to get back on the court as quickly as possible to try and avenge a loss it gave the team a chance for some final "fine tuning" before a stretch of games including teams like the Badgers, Hoosiers, Boilermakers and Spartans.

There won't be much turnaround time from the Wisconsin to the Indiana game with the team playing Sunday/Tuesday so it was important for the team to have a great week of practice while the opportunity was there. Was head coach Thad Matta happy with what he saw from his team?

"I hope (the week of practice was) very productive," Matta said. "Monday we were off so Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, (Friday) and Saturday will have had good workouts. Try and keep chipping away at things we have got to get better at. A lot of team stuff and a lot of fundamental stuff and go back at it."

Matta knows that the next two weeks will be more than a test for his team and if there are any hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament the team will have to win a couple of games that they are not favored to win.

" If you look at the stretch we've got here, I am not sure that anyone in college basketball has a tougher stretch than we do coming up," Matta said. "As I told our guys of what a great challenge for us collectively to go forward."

So was this week more centered around working on fundamentals or looking ahead to the upcoming schedule or a mix of the two?

"A little bit of both," Matta said. "The first few days were a lot of just us. You always slide things in and I don't know if the guys know they are doing it."

The players felt that the week of practices have gone well and will go a long way in helping the team make that final push through the heart of the schedule.

"These past couple days of practice we practiced very well," freshman center Kosta Koufos said. "We have gained more confidence and we lost some confidence after the Michigan game but we feel (now) that we have exceeded that level of confidence. We are just excited to play another game of basketball and looking forward to Wisconsin on Sunday."

Matta and his staff broke things down into four major things that he wants to see the team play with and drilled it into his team.

"Toughness, competitiveness, next play mentality and just sticking together," sophomore guard David Lighty said.

While the players might have been itching to get back out on the court and play another game the coaching staff had plenty to be occupied with on and off the court.

"I know for me I have been so busy with a lot of different things like recruiting," Matta said. "It is just like a normal week without a game and we kind of tailored that into breaking things up and wanting to break these things today, these things tomorrow and these things the next day. I think they have been pretty receptive with it."

It was brought up that the Buckeyes have struggled in close games dropping five of six games that were decided by seven points or less. The team focused on situations like that during the week.

"There were a lot of game situations too," Lighty said. "We put ourselves in a lot of situations. Time score with four minutes left in the game down three (points) or something like that. Out of bounds plays and things like that."

One way or the other the team knows the task at hand and with so few games left to be played every single game counts.

"There are five games left so there pretty much no more adjusting," Lighty said. "You know the game and you have played against pretty much everybody so everybody has to go out there and play basketball like they have done since they were little."

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