Aaron Craft was anall-statequarterback in high school and in many ways thinks more like aSaturday-afternoon star than the point guard for No. 13 Ohio State.
Even though hedropped the sport to focus on basketball as a senior - and still loves to watchfootball and talk about it - there's one thing about being on the hardcourtinstead of the gridiron that really appeals to him.
"Luckily, inbasketball we get to play twice in a week," he said on Wednesday."You don't have to wait a whole week like in football."
There's no questionthat No. 13 Ohio State is glad to bereturning to action. The Buckeyeshave heard enough about the losses last week in overtime at No. 3 Michigan andat home on Sunday to top-ranked Indiana.
After taking a day ortwo to assess their situation, they're looking forward to their next outingagainst injury-hampered Northwestern (13-11, 4-7 Big Ten) on Thursday night atValue City Arena.
"I'm justexcited to get back out there," Craft said.
Hungry for a win, theopponent couldn't be much better either for the Buckeyes (17-6, 7-4). After all they haven'tlost in Columbus to the Wildcats since Feb. 24, 1977, an 83-72 defeat - astring of 28 consecutive wins at home.
Overall, they've won17 of the last 18 meetings, regardless of the site.
But aside from theopponent, one of the major objectives for coach Thad Matta and his assistantsthis week has been working on the Buckeyes' mental health.
Asked if this was atime to try to kick start his team or console it, Matta said, "It's been alittle bit of both."
This has been aninteresting past few days for the Buckeyes. They hadn't lost back-to-back games in their last 121outings until last week.
The three-timedefending Big Ten champions (and winners of five of the last seven titles), Ohio State found itself tiedfor fourth place in the conference and two full games back of the lead whenthey hit the practice court at the Schottenstein Center on Wednesday.
In the wake of thatdisappointing 81-68 loss to Indiana at home, the message from the coachingstaff has been a simple one.
"Just moveforward. Just try not to think about it, put that game in the past. There'snothing you can do about it," center Amir Williams said. "We've gotNorthwestern (next). That's the team we have to come prepared for, be ready toplay because Northwestern is a dangerous team with their style of offense. Wecan't dwell too much on the past. We know we played bad against Indiana; wehave to play much better tomorrow night."
Before the seasonever got going, Matta took a look at the rest of the deep and talented Big Tenand told his players that they would need to be able to handle defeats becausethey would surely come.
"Yeah, we are ina tremendous league and there's a lot of great teams," Matta said. "Itold the team before the season started, this year's going to be about gettingknocked down, getting back up and fighting again."
And that's exactlywhere the Buckeyesfind themselves.
After Northwestern,they will get tested at No. 20 Wisconsin on Sunday. They then return home tomeet Minnesota and No. 8 Michigan State. Road games vs. Northwestern and top-ranked Indiana willfollow, before closing the regular season at Value City Arena against Illinois.
Craft was asked aboutthe lofty expectations for an Ohio Stateprogram that has spent much of the last two years at or near the top of thepolls and as a favorite in the NCAA tournament.
"You're expectedto play well and to play hard and be able to compete for a Big Ten championshipby the end of the year - and hopefully be playing as well as you can to make arun in the (NCAA) tournament," he said. "That's our goal. Our goalsare kind of in order as we go through the season, as we start every year.
"And that'sstill our goals today."
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