Exasperated Ohio State coach Thad Matta.
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COLUMBUS — Thad Matta watches the video clips over and over. Somewhere in the midst of all those pixels he's trying to find the answers to what's wrong with his Ohio State Buckeyes.
The thing is, it's hard to point to just one thing. The instant he thinks he's solved a problem, something else pops up.
"It appears to be a little bit of a different scenario each time," he said of the contributing factors when the Buckeyes go into a lull.
They've been doing that a lot lately. One month ago, Ohio State was unbeaten and ranked No. 3 in the nation.
The Buckeyes (17-5, 4-5 Big Ten) begin February having lost five of seven games and find themselves out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in 80 polls, since January 2010.
Heading into today's 7 p.m. game at No. 17 Iowa, Matta and his staff are scrambling to patch some holes and get things turned around. The Buckeyes pulled off a big road win Saturday, edging No. 14 Wisconsin 59-58.
"It's a lot easier said than done, reeling a couple off," Matta said.
The last two games, including an overtime loss to Penn State at home, have come down to a final shot.
"I'd love to not be in that position," Matta said. "It's making me old."
The reasons for the Buckeyes' failures — and what they did right in winning — are elusive.
"It can be a few different things," point guard Aaron Craft said. "Sometimes we let one end of the floor tie into the other end. If we're not getting stops on defense that might affect us a little on offense. And vice versa."
Offensive mistakes have been a big problem. The Buckeyes were averaging just over 10 turnovers a game; they've averaged more than 13 a game in the last seven games.
"We don't have that zip that we have on the offensive end that we usually do when we're playing well," said forward Sam Thompson. "We're turning the ball over. That's probably the most common theme of our struggles."
The Buckeyes have also had trouble shooting.
They were making 47.4 percent of their shots from the field before their swoon and are at 40.5 percent since.
Matta saw signs at Wisconsin — as tough a place to play as there in the Big Ten (at least until the Badgers dropped their last three at home) — which were encouraging.
"I like the fact that Saturday we were down eight in the first half, and seven or eight in the second half and still found ways to come back and win the game," he said. "We made plays that we needed to make down the stretch to win the game, both offensively and defensively. And we hadn't done that through this stretch."
The Buckeyes live and die off their defense. Yet, at times, they've given up points in chunks, particularly close to the basket.
"When we're not playing well on the defensive end, we're not playing as one unit," said Thompson, inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday for Shannon Scott for the first time this season. "We have five guys guarding their own man as opposed to moving as one."
No. 1 Syracuse 61, Notre Dame 55
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Trevor Cooney scored a career-high 33 points, matching a school record with nine 3-pointers for the Oragne..
Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 ACC) extended its school record for most consecutive wins to start a season.
Notre Dame (12-11, 3-7) has lost seven of nine. Garrick Sherman led the Irish with 16 points.
No. 6 Villanova 81, Xavier 58
VILLANOVA, Pa. — James Bell hit six 3-pointers and scored 27 points and Darrun Hilliard had 17 to lead the Wildcats (20-2, 8-1 Big East).
Semaj Christon led the Musketeers (15-7, 5-4) with 17.
Syracuse ranked No. 1
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse's reward for winning one of the best college basketball games of the season was a spot on top of the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Combined with No. 1 Arizona's first loss of the season last weekend, the Orange's 91-89 overtime win over Duke on Saturday moved them up one spot to the top.
Syracuse (21-0) received all 65 first-place votes. Arizona (21-1) and Syracuse, which were 1-2 for the last eight weeks, switched spots this week.
Michigan stayed at No. 10.
Brown, Rogers honored
Toledo’s Julius Brown was named Mid-American Conference West division men’s basketball player of the week for the fourth time this season and for the eighth occasion in his career.
He had eight points and eight assists in an 83-70 win at Miami and 28 points and eight assists in a 95-90 overtime loss at Ohio.
Bowling Green's Alexis Rogers was named MAC East Division women’s basketball player of the week. She had 20 points and seven rebounds in a win at Ohio, then had 22 points and 12 boards in the victory at Toledo.
This marked the third time this season Rogers has won the award.
BG’s Griffin named
Bowling Green freshman swimmer Victoria Griffin was named MAC swimmer of the week for the fourth time this season.
Griffin won two events and was part of a victorious 200-yard freestyle relay team in a 155-138 win over Ohio. She added a win and a relay victory in the a 164-94 win over Marshall.
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