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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Four days after picking up a 58-49 win over Wisconsin, the No. 11 Ohio State men's basketball team (16-4, 6-2) will return to action on Saturday when they hit the road to travel to Lincoln, Neb., where they'll take on Nebraska (11-11, 2-7). On Friday, Thad Matta and members of his squad met with the media to provide an update heading into the Buckeyes' battle with the Cornhuskers.
Hounding the Huskers
Having already played OSU in its Big Ten opener on Jan. 2, the Huskers are the first team that the Buckeyes will have faced twice this season. Ohio State won that first meeting by a score of 70-44, but Matta has seen improvement in Nebraska under first-year head coach Tim Miles.
"Tim has been a head coach for 18 years and he's won at a high rate," Matta said. "I do think you can build that, but the fact is that it doesn't happen overnight."
Like Ohio State, Nebraska is thought to be a football school first, with perhaps basketball being even further down on its priority list. Having found success at a football factory for the past nine seasons, Matta said that is possible for Huskers hoops to catch fire in Lincoln.
"I think there are similarities to it," Matta said. "I will say, when we rolled in there last year, the fan base, the support, was off the charts. Preparing for them now compared to Jan. 2, they are making a lot of changes.
With matchups with No. 1 Michigan and No. 3 Indiana looming next week, it would be easy for the Buckeyes to look ahead and past a team that sits in second-to-last place in the conference standings. OSU guard Lenzelle Smith Jr., however, knows that his team can't afford to do just that.
"This conference is if not the best conference in the country, (then) one of the best," Smith said. "In this conference, any given night, anybody can lose, anybody can be great. You just have to be the best team on that night against the team you're playing."
Regardless of the opponent, location, or tipoff time, Matta has the same hopes for every OSU game: for the Buckeyes to be at their best.
"In my mind, it's the next opponent. It's the next Big Ten game," Matta said. "I just want to go play our best basketball, no matter who we're playing, where we're playing, or when we're playing."
After his eight-point performance in Ohio State's win over Wisconsin on Tuesday, many fans are beginning to get excited about the possibility of the emergence of LaQuinton Ross. And according to Matta, the sophomore forward could be on the cusp of starting something special.
"LaQuinton is on that curve of becoming a complete player. I think he has a better understanding of what he needs to do on a daily basis," Matta said. "We need LaQuinton to continue at the pace he is because he's definitely helping us."
Having also gone through a maturation process in the first two-and-a-half seasons of his college career, Smith understands what Ross is going through. He also sees that the 6-foot-8 forward is on the brink of becoming a regular contributor for the Buckeyes, which is something that he attributes to a change in attitude.
"You have to learn that there's always someone who's older, faster, stronger, better or just more dedicated and has been in the program longer and understands more things. You just have to wait your turn," Smith said. "He's seeing things he didn't want to see initially. He's becoming a better person and a better teammate, and it's helping his game out and helping this team."
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