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0-3 vs. ranked teams, Ohio State seeking answers

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0-3 vs. ranked teams, Ohio State seeking answers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Thad Matta is happy with his team. He is just not happy with how it is playing right now.

``Coming off of Saturday's game, their awareness better be heightened,'' he said of his players.

The Buckeyes are 11-0 against unranked teams but now stand 0-3 against Associated Press Top 25 teams after sustaining a 74-55 beating at No. 12 Illinois on Saturday.

The inability to beat elite teams has dropped the Buckeyes from No. 4 in the preseason to No. 15 in the latest media balloting.

But they say they can fix things and turn it around before Tuesday night's game at Purdue.

``We've just got to take a better approach to it,'' backup point guard Shannon Scott said. ``Before the (Illinois) game, our minds weren't really there. We were all like, laughing around, not focused. If we come to Purdue more focused, we'll be fine.''

The common denominator in all three losses was poor shooting by the Buckeyes. They shot under 34 percent in each defeat.

Compounding their misery in the loss to the Illini, they also were unfocused on defense and played sloppy with the ball. But Matta said that defeat was different.

``I have to be honest, I have to throw Saturday out,'' he said. ``We did things that were so uncharacteristic. As I told them, `Look, I'm not sure who was in your jerseys in this game.'''

Some Ohio State fans - a small segment, mind you - have been exceedingly critical of the team's play so far. Naysayers to the end, they don't think the shooting will come around. They don't believe any of the big men - Amir Williams, Evan Ravenel or Trey McDonald - will be able to hold their own. They look at the lack of offense from point guards Aaron Craft and Scott and worry about the lack of production.

In the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, they're afraid that other teams will prey on the Buckeyes' weakness.

Deshaun Thomas, the leading scorer in the conference, remains confident that things will turn around.

``I just stay positive. We were in this situation last year, when we lost at Illinois,'' he said of the team that went on to a 31-8 record, a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to the Final Four. ``I don't think this team is falling apart. There's some things we need to work on. We're going to get there. We know now what it's going to take and what we have to do to play hard and win ballgames.''

The Buckeyes (11-3, 1-1 Big Ten) had 16 turnovers against Illinois, many of them unforced. Even though they average only around 10 a game, they opened against Illinois with two turnovers and had 11 by halftime.

Matta is toying with the idea of making lineup changes. With his team trailing by 20 or so most of the second half in Champaign, Ill., he tinkered with different combinations. At one point, he didn't play a true center, instead going with Thomas underneath the basket, with thin shooting guard LaQuinton Ross at power forward and Scott at the point.

Don't be surprised if he doesn't continue to mix and match players.

``The motivation is I want to attempt to get off to a good start'' at Purdue, Matta said. ``Finding those five guys who have a flow to them is what I'm still looking at.''

The Boilermakers (7-7, 1-1) shocked Illinois in their Big Ten opener before losing at Michigan State.

Ohio State is in dire need of some good news before it hosts No. 2 Michigan on Sunday.

``We know we can't play like we did last week,'' Scott said. ``We know the way the rest of the Big Ten is going to play. We have to have a better approach. I think we're going to play a lot better.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

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Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

Andre Burakovsky will be sidelined for the remainder of Washington's first-round series vs. Columbus, but he isn’t necessarily out for the remainder of the playoffs, Coach Barry Trotz said on Friday.

Burakovsky suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the Capitals' Game 2 overtime loss and has not been on the ice since.

Trotz said the 23-year-old top-six winger needs “minor” surgery.

That procedure, however, will not preclude Burakovsky from returning to the Caps’ lineup in subsequent rounds, should Washington advance.

“That's why I said minor surgery,” Trotz added, asked if Burky might return at a later date.

This latest surgery is the second for Burakovsky this season. In late October, he had a procedure to repair a broken left thumb and missed the next 20 games.

Since his departure in Game 2, Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson have taken turns replacing Burakovsky on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

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Bradley Beal on his struggles, getting an apology from Scott Brooks

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks remarked after Game 2 and following practice on Thursday that he was partly to blame for Bradley Beal's modest scoring output through two games in the team's playoff series against the Raptors. They weren't just throwaway lines, a coach trying to make his star player feel better for struggling in the playoffs.

No, Brooks truly meant what he said and followed up those comments with an apology face-to-face. Brooks met with Beal and John Wall in between Games 2 and 3 to see how they can get Beal going and reiterated that some of it all was on the coach.

"He apologized to me, which was weird because he's somebody who always holds me accountable for stuff," Beal said after Friday's shootaround. "I guess he figured I wasn't shooting the ball enough and he thought it was his fault. I don't know."

Beal, who is averaging 14.0 points in two games and scored only nine in Game 2, came away from the meeting with a good understanding of what he needs to do to get back on track. After apologizing, Brooks laid out a strategy in hopes that he, Wall and Beal can all be on the same page moving forward.

They need to get their All-Star shooting guard back to form on the offensive end.

"He just basically challenged me. He challenged me to be more aggressive on the offensive and defensive end," Beal said.

What has made Beal's scoring troubles through two games particularly surprising is how well he played against the Raptors during the regular season. He averaged 28.8 points in four games against Toronto and all were without Wall.

Beal shot 50 percent against the Raptors both from the field and from three. So far this series he's shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from long range.

Asked whether there is anything he can draw from the regular season to apply to the playoffs, Beal said it's not as easy as it may seem.

"Those games are different. The matchups are different to an extent. It's totally different in the playoffs because you have more time to prep and prepare and gameplan for us," he said. 

"I think the biggest thing is them being physical. They are real physical with me. Whenever I'm standing around on offense or moving around, they are grabbing me. I just need to be physical back with them. Keep moving off the ball and especially if Kyle [Lowry] is guarding me. Tire him out as much as possible. Continue to be aggressive."

Coaches use all sorts of leadership tactics to motivate players. Perhaps an apology will do the trick.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

HISTORIC ODDS FOR TEAMS THAT GO DOWN 0-2

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3