For OSU, Answers Never Came

For OSU, Answers Never Came

Ohio State won its fair share of games in 2013-14, but the Buckeyes never found an answer to the problems that plagued them in losses. Those issues surfaced again in a 60-59 loss to Dayton and left both players and coach shaking their heads over the inability to find solutions to scoring issues and slow starts.

It took all season, and the answers still never came.

Ohio State never found a complete replacement for Deshaun Thomas, never found a consistent and sustained level of play and never found the recipe for a quick start.

When the final horn sounded and their season had ended, Buckeyes coach Thad Matta and his players still had no answers for the issues that plagued them all season.

"Honestly, I don't know," Matta said when asked about how his team found itself in these sort of situations. "It's kind of been this team this year. As I told them after the game, truth be told, we probably shouldn't have been in this position from the standpoint of some games that we lost throughout the season.

"The positions we were in at times, and you look at this team, you have 10 losses on the season, and you've led nine of them in the second half. The other one that you lose, you're down one with eight minutes to go. I wish I had the answer for you. I would have used it about a month ago."

That frustration extended down to the players, who repeatedly said at the end of the season that they hoped to come out firing only to watch opponents build first-half leads.

"We didn't start the game with all the intensity we needed to, or all the energy," senior guard Lenzelle Smith said. "You know, the whole media (session) yesterday, I remember saying if we don't come to play or come ready fresh out the gate, it would be our last game. We didn't come ready to play out the gate and it was our last game."

Senior point guard Aaron Craft tried to shift the blame away from Matta and towards the players. He noted that his four NCAA losses came by a combined nine points, making the losses each time that much more frustrating.

In the end, he said, the players didn't display enough urgency to hold off the Flyers.

"We didn't value possessions during the game, didn't value possessions during the second half," he said. "This isn't an ‘if you lose, you get another one,' type game. That's on us. Coach is going to try to take the blame, but we've got to take responsibility as players. We've said that countless times this year, and now we have four months to take responsibility for it.

For fans wondering how the Buckeyes could treat a knockout game with the urgency of a non-conference matchup in November, Craft said he couldn't pinpoint what was missing with this team.

"They deserve an answer," he said. "They've deserved an answer all year. They've seen us play well and seen us play like this. I don't know."

Craft Discusses End Of OSU Career

After three Sweet Sixteens (and one Final Four) to open his career, Craft saw his storied career come to an end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

With a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten and a No. 6 seed in the Big Dance, this squad didn't have the expectations of teams in years past, but the opening-game loss to Dayton still came as a stunner.

In a postgame press conference, Craft was in no mood to discuss how he'll be remembered among the greats who donned the Scarlet and Gray.

"Sorry, I have zero thoughts on that right now," he said. "I'm upset at the way that we played this game and the way that we didn't take the opportunity and make the most of it. So that's for you guys to decide and discuss, but right now, I can't move past this game yet."

In his final game as a Buckeye, he scored sixteen points on 6-of-9 shooting and also chipped in four assists and five rebounds. He committed five turnovers.

Back in the locker room after his postgame press conference, he stood in front of a crowd of reporters and explained again that he hadn't started thinking about the end of his career yet.

"I don't think there's going to be any thoughts moving forward until I have to deal with this," he said. "I have to get my mind right, deal with this and find a way to get over it. Then I think it'll settle in. I'm going to take this jersey off for the last time. You can't get time back."

Sanford's Shot

Vee Sanford's game-winning shot was second nature.

Dayton's fifth-year senior guard from Lexington, Ky., said that he used to practice floaters in the park as a child, noting that practicing in the windy conditions helped him deal with imperfect situations.

In those scenarios, who was Craft, the player who he ultimately beat to bank in the game-winning tally?

"My dad," he said. "He would push me and shove me as much as he could."

In hindsight, Craft never would have let the reserve guard manage to get the shot off, though.

"I should've slapped it out of his hands," Craft said. "There's a lot of ‘shoulda, coulda, wouldas' right now."

Sanford was expecting Craft to poke at the ball, though. He said that his plan was always to drive to the basket but that he would have kicked it out to the perimeter if his ability to drive to the basket disappeared.

"Craft was a great defender, great player, but the door was wide open as far as when the floor was cleared," he said. "I just felt like it was a great opportunity to get a shot, but no knocks on Craft. Craft is a really great defender."

Up In The Air

Junior forward LaQuinton Ross acknowledged that he'll have an NBA Draft decision to make, and his opening words didn't hold too much promise of an encore in Columbus.

When asked if he might follow the path of Jared Sullinger and William Buford, who returned after a disappointing loss to Kentucky, Ross was quick to distance himself from the situation of the pair of former Buckeyes.

"I don't know, man," he said. "Jared and them, they knew what they were coming back to. They had a great system for them. That year that Will came back, they brought in our class, so they knew they were going to have players around them. I'm just going to sit down, talk to my coaches and see what they have to say, see what my family says and we'll go from there.

Ross came into the NCAA Tournament riding a hot streak that included two double-doubles in three Big Ten Tournament games. He was the only Buckeye to crack the All-Tournament team.

Against the Flyers, though, he struggled. He managed just 10 points and two rebounds, committing five turnovers in the process.

"They did a good job, they came with a lot of help," Ross said of Dayton. "Any time I caught it down low they brought two or three guys to me. Any time I tried to go to the hole they were able to put a guy there for help. They just played physical."

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