Amid four-game skid, is it time for Buckeyes to panic?

Amid four-game skid, is it time for Buckeyes to panic?
January 22, 2014, 9:45 am
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Vinnie Duber

When losses came against Michigan State and Iowa, it wasn't time to panic.

But a week later, following road losses to Minnesota and Nebraska, Ohio State's losing streak is at four games, and it might be the perfect time to panic.

What is going on with the Buckeyes?

This all started on Jan. 7 at the Breslin Center, when an undefeated Ohio State team (then ranked No. 3 in the country) dropped its first game of the season to then-No. 5 Michigan State. It was one of those "high-quality losses," and it could be argued the Buckeyes walked away the more impressive bunch following their 20-3 run at the end of regulation to erase a 17-point Spartans advantage and force overtime. If not for some big shots in overtime by Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, that game could have swung the other way. Instead, it kickstarted a losing streak that would send the Buckeyes into a free fall.

[MORE: Crawford, Northwestern rally to beat Purdue in 2OT]

A loss to Iowa in Columbus followed, another one of those excusable defeats considering just how good the Hawkeyes have proven they are, currently ranked in the top 10 in the AP poll.

The eyebrows started raising when the Buckeyes couldn't muster enough points to beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers, another team playing well but one Ohio State certainly should have handled. And then, when what was once a No. 3 ranking turned into a No. 17 ranking on Monday, the Buckeyes came out and lost to Nebraska, the team picked in the preseason to finish last in the conference.

Thad Matta was asked after the most recent defeat vs. the Huskers what was different between the beginning of the season — when the Buckeyes were winning every game they played — and now.

[RELATED: Transformed defense has Northwestern 'in a good place']

"How much time do we have?

"No, I think you have to respect this league. Knowing that it is hard, it is hard. We had a shot four games ago at the buzzer and at the rim to win in regulation. We had a nine-point lead the next game in the second half, get beat. You come back, you take the lead tonight — we need consistency. We play ourselves back into it after something doesn't go well. I think the thing I see the most is we are not able to answer the call and say 'OK, they scored, we lost (Nebraska's Ray) Gallegos on a trail, not a big deal.' We have to go back down (on defense) and make the next play. We are clinging on the mistakes, and you have to play forward with it."

A team that thrived on defense early in the season still leads the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 58.5 points per game. But the number has skyrocketed during the losing streak, with the four teams averaging 71.8 points per game during that stretch. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes haven't been able to score enough points of their own, averaging 64.3 points per game in the last four games. They rank ninth in the Big Ten in scoring with 73.3 points per game.

The Buckeyes have an opportunity to turn things around with games against Illinois and Penn State up next in Columbus. But then again, Nebraska was supposed to allow for a bounce-back, too. If Ohio State can't win the next two, then it really is time to panic.