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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Fresh off of a 73-68 defeat at the hands of No. 2 Duke on Wednesday, the No. 4-ranked Ohio State basketball team will return to the Schottenstein Center of Saturday, where it will host Northern Kentucky. On Friday, Thad Matta and his Buckeyes met with the media to talk the week that was and to preview their upcoming matchup with the Norse.
Blue Devils on the back burner
Having had two full days for the Buckeyes' loss to Duke sink in, Matta has had some time to review what went wrong in a game that saw OSU lose a double-digit second half lead. On Friday, Matta said that the loss came as a result of some missed opportunities by his team, which the Blue Devils took advantage of.
"First and foremost, you have to give Duke credit. They made some plays," Matta said. "Defensively, we made some errors technique-wise, and they knocked down shots and we weren't as good as we needed to be."
OSU point guard Shannon Scott, who scored five points on 1-of-8 shooting against the Blue Devils, said that the Buckeyes looked like a completely different team in the second half on Wednesday, when they converted just 12 of their 33 shot attempts.
"We had a lot of forced shots in the second half that we didn't have in the first half," Scott explained. "We definitely could have done a better job of just making better decisions, getting better shots."
Now it's the Norse
While they may not possess the same big name star power that Duke brought to the table against the Buckeyes, Matta has a personal connection with OSU's next opponent. Back in the 2004-05 season- his first at Ohio State- Matta coached against Northern Kentucky in his first exhibition game as the Buckeyes' head coach.
For fun, Matta went back and reviewed the stat book from the matchup that occurred nine years ago, and gave one of his former players some grief for a less-than-stellar performance from the charity stripe against the Norse.
"That was in essence the first game I ever coached here in terms of an exhibition. We were up 10 at halftime, won by 10," Matta said. "I texted J.J. Sullinger last night and told him, 'You were 11 of 20 from the free throw line."
Although its still looking for its first win of the season, Matta is weary of Northern Kentucky, which has a history of upending top-flight programs. With the No. 4 Buckeyes being the highest ranked team on the Norse's schedule, the OSU coach knows that his team will have a huge target on its back on Saturday.
"You've got a team that is becoming Division-1 eligible. They went in and beat Louisville a couple years ago by 18," Matta said. "There's nothing more, from their perspective, of opportunities and this is probably one of the best opportunities they have on their schedule continuing to set the program in motion."
Having played three of their first five games on the road, the Buckeyes will now enjoy more than a month-long home stand, hosting eight consecutive games at the Schottenstein Center. Matta is hoping to see steady improvement from a relatively young team, that is relying on four sophomores in its rotation.
"Overall, my concerns are, kind of like I say every time, five guys connected defensively. Quite honestly, continuing to develop the overall understanding of the game of basketball," Matta said. "I think the biggest thing that you try to get now is you try to defend your home court here throughout the month."
With this season's OSU squad being one of Matta' deepest in recent memory, Scott said that practices have been extra competitive, with so many players fighting to keep their respective roles on the team.
"I know every day in practice, we all go at it, and we don't really take days off and think that we have a spot on this team." Scott said. "We all know that we have to compete every day, so our practices are great because of that. It makes us better players."
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