COLUMBUS, Ohio — Andre Wesson sulked up to the postgame podium alone, an abnormality for Ohio State postgame interviews.
Normally, two players will join each other simultaneously for a period of eight to ten minutes for postgame interviews. On Thursday night following the loss to Illinois, Wesson was the only player to face the media. He spoke for a total of three minutes and 56 seconds.
The message during that short span of time was simple: Ohio State wasn’t prepared for this game.
“We came out tonight, we weren’t prepared and that’s on me and us older guys,” junior forward Andre Wesson told reporters. “We didn’t get the younger guys prepared and that’s what happens. That’s how you get beat.”
Not being prepared for a home conference game this late in the season is troublesome, but what may be even more troublesome is that the Buckeyes had no answer for as to why they weren’t prepared for the Illini and they may have no immediate answers on how to prepare better for future opponents.
“That’s something we’ve got to figure out,” said Wesson on why the Buckeyes weren’t prepared for an Illinois team that had only won a total of nine games all season. “We weren’t looking ahead. This is a good team that came in. They’d won four straight. Nobody was looking ahead. This is a really good team. We just didn’t prepare right. That’s on me.”
After the victory at Indiana this past Sunday, Ohio State finally had crawled back to a .500 record in Big Ten play, which is where the Buckeyes need to stay to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
The loss to an Illinois team that’s down near the bottom of the Big Ten rankings is certainly a gut-wrenching blow to Ohio State that needs as many wins as they can get at this point.
“All losses hurt,” said Wesson. “But this one we kind of needed to have, and for us not to be prepared, that’s on me and us older guys. It can’t happen.”
Before the season began, almost everyone who follows Ohio State men’s basketball was expecting this season to be a “rebuilding year” for the Buckeyes.
However, after a miraculous 12-1 start, which included impressive road wins at Cincinnati and Creighton as well as a victory over traditional basketball powerhouse UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic, it appeared that Ohio State was destined for dancing in March as opposed to scraping the season in waiting of their three incoming McDonalds All-Americans.
The success of the non-conference slate quickly turned into the pitfalls of conference play as Ohio State hit a five-game losing skid following the conclusion of their non-conference schedule. The Buckeyes have managed to pick up a few conference wins over their past handful of games, but Ohio State is now 4-7 since their 12-1 start and 6-7 overall in conference play with only seven games remaining on their schedule, five of those seven games being against ranked opponents.
Wesson understands the tough road that lies ahead for the Buckeyes and what they have to achieve in the rest of their Big Ten regular season slate if they want to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a tough conference,” Wesson said. “Every night, you can get beat if you don’t show up… We’ve got to get back to work. It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve got Michigan State at [East Lansing], so it doesn’t get any easier. We’ve got to go back to work.”
“A lot of teams would like to be in the bubble picture, including the one we played tonight,” said head coach Chris Holtmann on Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament chances. “I think for us, right now, our focus is not on the bubble or anything like that. Our focus is on getting better and improving and growing. That’s our focus as coaches.”
The Buckeyes will have to figure out how to prepare better if they are going to have any chance of beating the No. 11 Spartans on the road this Sunday. With a win, Ohio State propels themselves back into the thick of NCAA Tournament teams, but a loss could end up being the dagger that sends the Buckeyes packing for the NIT, or maybe even worse.
Tip-off this Sunday, February 17th between Ohio State and Michigan State is scheduled for 1:00pm ET and the game will be televised on CBS.
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