Normal Struggle or Big Trouble...Ohio State Waits to See

Bruce Hooley

The alarm bells are blaring around the Ohio State basketball team.

There's no question about that after five losses in six games and a free-fall from No. 2 in the nation to out of the Top 25.

The only question is, do the alarm bells signal significant trouble or are they just the standard emergency procedures virtually every team experiences in a challenging Big Ten season?

Answers will start coming forward at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when OSU (12-6, 2-5) plays host to Minnesota (10-8, 4-4) the culprit that started the Buckeyes' plummet from the sport's elite to the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Ohio State shouldn't need a lesson in revenge, given how Penn State inflicted one Saturday with a 90-76 humbling that wasn't all that close, flipping the script from a Dec. 7 meeting that OSU won in a frolic, 106-74.

Virtually nothing has been easy for the Buckeyes since then, so they tried hashing out some of their issues in a lengthy locker room meeting after getting embarrassed by the Nittany Lions.

If you're tracking the warning signs, add that to a list of less-than-ideal developments that include the current 1-5 stretch and one-game suspensions in its midst for guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington.

OSU coach Chris Holtmann has been around long enough to know how amateur psychologists will read those tea leaves, hence he took a measured approach when asked if he's battling internal agendas or if there's a fear his players have tuned him out.

"It wasn't necessarily a team meeting after Penn State," Holtmann said. "...I don't know why there was much made of it, if there was. We were just trying to talk through some things."

The assessment of the Penn State confab came from freshman guard D.J. Carton and junior center Kaleb Wesson.

"The meeting after the Penn State game, it was just us talking, talking through our frustrations, things that we thought changed up, things we saw that are going on," Carton said. "...It was a good talk. We got to hear guys' perspectives. Overall, I think it helped this team."

Wesson has been through this before, experiencing a five-game losing streak last January before the Buckeyes rallied to get into the NCAA Tournament and upset sixth-seeded Iowa State in Round One.

"You hit this stretch and start losing games and people get frustrated," Wesson said. "When you're winning, people overlook things like that, little frustrations. We're so close we can have those discussions after games and no one will take it to heart. You move on. That's how we'll all respond."

Pressed for detail, Wesson revealed a bit more of how things transpired and who participated.

"It was everybody," he said. "We went down the line of, 'How do you feel? What's your opinion now? Now, we're going to move on from here. We don't want to hear it. We don't want to hear about something that's been going on. You had your chance to voice your opinion.' Everybody got their chance to voice their opinion and they did."

So, it sounds like whatever went down fell between a ladies tea and a presidential impeachment hearing on the civility meter.

"We'll see how we come out of this." Holtmann said. "I understand people looking and searching for things . Bottom line is, we'll see how we come out of this. And I think that will determine a lot of who we are as a group and what we're trying to be."

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