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With each loss, Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament hopes are slipping away

With last night’s loss to Purdue, Ohio State has now lost five games in a row. What can the Buckeyes do to right the ship?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s certainly been the hardest stretch of my coaching career. But I believe in our guys and I’m confident that we’ve got a group that if we can just stay committed to this process of getting better and learning from this. Then hopefully we’ll see better days.”

Ohio State men’s basketball head coach Chris Holtmann via Stephen Means,

Last night Ohio State lost 79-67 to Purdue, marking the first time since the 1997-98 that the Buckeyes have lost five games in a row. Things aren’t quite as dire as that season, when Ohio State lost 18 straight games, but the Buckeyes know they have to turn things around quickly if they want to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

If Ohio State is going to turn things around and make the NCAA Tournament, there are a number of goals they can set for themselves to help their case. The first to avoid anymore losses at home. During their five-game losing streak, Ohio State has fallen to Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue at Value City Arena.

Currently Ohio State is winless in January, and with games at Nebraska and Michigan still left in the month, there is a chance the Buckeyes could end the month winless. Even if Ohio State is able to win at least one of those road games, they’ll have to be nearly perfect in February. The Buckeyes have a number of winnable games next month, as well as opportunities to extract some revenge on Michigan State and Maryland.

The most important thing for Ohio State to accomplish whether they make the NCAA Tournament or not, is to gain some playing experiences for some of this year’s freshmen. Luther Muhammad has already impressed enough to be a starter throughout the season. Duane Washington Jr. has been strong off the bench for Ohio State, and Justin Ahrens saw his first significant playing time last night against Purdue.

Sometimes adversity can bring a team together. The Buckeyes are certainly full of adversity, not only dealing with this losing streak, but also recently losing forward Kyle Young due to injury. Ohio State showed some fight last night despite falling behind Purdue in the first half. While a comeback victory wasn’t in the works, the Buckeyes haven’t given up, and it’s not hard to imagine Ohio State turning things around.

McLaurin entered the week with a lot to like on film, but he far exceeded my expectations during practice. The game comes so easy to McLaurin, expect to hear words like ‘natural feel’ to describe him.”

The Draft Network analyst Brad Kelly via Dan Hope, Eleven Warriors

Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin was toying with the idea of declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft following last season, but he decided it was in his best interest to return to Ohio State for his senior season. The decision not only paid off during the year with McLaurin impressing by hauling in 11 touchdown passes, but this week he has been making waves in Senior Bowl practices.

Not only has McLaurin impressed scouts and coaches with his speed, as evidenced by the 22.2 miles per hour he was clocked at during a deep-ball touchdown catch, but his versatility is also very attractive to teams. McLaurin was a standout on special teams throughout his career at Ohio State, and former head coach Urban Meyer called McLaurin “his best gunner ever” for the work he did on punt coverage.

The biggest reason for McLaurin’s huge jump in production and development can be attributed to getting to work with wide receivers coach Brian Hartline during his senior season. McLaurin passed on jumping to the NFL last year because he wanted to come back and work with Hartline, who was a quality control coach last year.

Now being able to look back on it all, McLaurin knows it was a probably a little far-fetched to consider entering the NFL last season. Not only did McLaurin get a chance to come back and play with Dwayne Haskins and the rest of his teammates on a Rose Bowl winning team, but he also got to improve his draft stock. If McLaurin had left Ohio State following last year, he likely would have been a late-round pick at best, but now he is putting himself in a position to come off the board a lot earlier.

“We, right now, are the No. 1 team in the WCHA with penalties per game. We have to make sure we’re doing the smart things defensively. The little things we tend to forget. We can’t be giving up 16 goals like we did the last three games.”

Ohio State women’s ice hockey coach Nadine Muzerall via Griffin Strom, The Lantern

Ohio State’s women’s ice hockey team is playing their worst hockey of the season, currently riding a three-game losing streak. Last weekend the Buckeyes dropped a pair of games to unranked Minnesota-Duluth, giving up 11 goals in the two losses. Things won’t get any easier for Ohio State, as they’ll be hosting Minnesota, who is ranked second in the country.

The defense of the Buckeyes will have to toughen up quickly against a Minnesota team that is leading the country in goals scored, points, and scoring margin. Ohio State freshman goalie Andrea Braendli notched 84 saves when the teams met for two games earlier in the season, but lately she has been shaky in net. After Braendli allowed four first period goals on Friday against Minnesota-Duluth, sophomore Lynsey Wallace was given her first start in goal on Saturday.

No matter who starts in net for Ohio State this weekend, the Buckeyes are going to have to be at the top of their game. Luckily Ohio State plays some of their best hockey at home, posting a 10-2 record in Columbus this year. If the Buckeyes play smarter hockey than they have lately and tighten up their defense, they could give Minnesota some trouble this weekend and possibly spring an upset over the Golden Gophers.