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Thad Matta Has No Regrets Over How the Final Seconds of Ohio State’s Season Played Out

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Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes began the NCAA tournament as the favorite to win it all. Like every other favorite, their season has since ended. The Buckeyes shot the ball well throughout the season and earned a No. 1 seed, but couldn’t get by a Kentucky team that beat both them, and the No. 2 seed in the region on the way to a Final Four. Despite a poor shooting night and rough stretches that were unthinkable given how well Ohio State had shot at times down the stretch of the season, the Buckeyes were still in the game with under a minute to play. Instead of calling a timeout, Matta let his guys play, opting to not let John Calipari set his defense during a timeout. Ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be, as the Buckeyes missed in the final seconds and saw their season come crashing to a halt. Matta says he wouldn’t have changed his tactics in those final seconds because he believes the percentages are better to score when not calling the timeout. Either way, that’s all water under the bridge at this point. The team did, however, get a lift when star Jared Sullinger said after the game that he plans on being back next season, so perhaps the Buckeyes will be another top candidate to win it all when college hoops resume in earnest next fall. Thad Matta joined WBNS in Columbus with Paul Keels to discuss his thoughts on the season, the direction of his program, why his team lost to Kentucky, why he wouldn’t change his tactics in the final minute and where Jared Sullinger could improve his game by coming back.

His thoughts at the end of a successful season, yet disappointing finish in the tournament:

“I’m still not in the mood to really think about a whole lot other than just the guys and trying to get through. When you have a team like this that you enjoy so much, you know it’s going to end at some point and you just can never prepare yourself for that moment.”

If he likes where his program is at, particularly the culture and direction:

“There’s no question about it. That’s something that I’m excited about, just where the program is. From the standpoint of the leadership … we’re a unique team again next year with one senior, no juniors … and that’s the thing that we’ve got to continue to build going into spring. … The sophomores are going to have to step up and get the job done.”

On what happened in the Buckeyes’ loss to Kentucky to end the season:

“It came down to Kentucky making a big-time shot at the end of the game. Obviously you can go back and play, ‘Should we have been in that situation?’ I think Kentucky was definitely the best team that we played this season and for us to not shoot the ball as well as we did and the looks that we got …  it just takes a bad half or a bad stretch of the game and it was over with.”

On the final moments and deciding not to call a timeout:

“When the shot went in I immediately went to the clock and as I look back, Aaron had a full head of steam. … I felt like we had Kentucky on their heels a little bit. Aaron had a great read and William (Buford) had a good look. I wouldn’t change that at all. … The percentages say taking a timeout, you score more in not taking one than you do with.”

His thoughts on Jared Sullinger’s overall game and where it could improve by coming back next year:

“It’s hard because he’s such a talented player and such a great kid from the standpoint of who he is as a teammate. … The big thing for me, with Jared, is to develop his body, getting him in maybe even a little bit better shape to be able to say, maybe, exclusively, the four spot. I think he’s looking forward to it.”

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