Ohio State is pulling out all the stops to try and encourage students to support this year’s team Wednesday night against Clemson.
When the Buckeyes tip against the Tigers in this year’s installment of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, they will do so in front of a student section slated to be more than five times bigger than its prior maximum. Ohio State sold somewhere between 750-1,000 student-ticket packages this season but is expecting a crowd of at least 5,000 students for Wednesday’s game.
The reason is simple: tickets are free. Each Ohio State student could get one ticket with their valid student ID. Adding to that, the Nuthouse student section has a multitude of free giveaways.
In case y’all forgot what we have for you on Wednesday. Free hoops and all this free swag? Some would say this is the sporting event of the semester!!!! pic.twitter.com/R9HwhN15CR— The NutHouse (@BuckeyeNutHouse) November 27, 2017
Fans are encouraged to wear scarlet, and the Buckeyes will wear their special jerseys designed specifically for last weekend’s PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon.
“I mean, if I was a student and I saw as much free stuff as they’re giving away, I’d be the first person here,” fifth-year senior guard Kam Williams said Tuesday. “I’d be camping out outside. We expect it to be a great atmosphere. I was hearing it’s supposed to be our loudest atmosphere in the last five years. If that’s the case, we’re really excited about it and looking forward to feeding off of our fans. It should be a real fun experience to get a Big Ten-type atmosphere this early in the season. It’ll be wonderful.”
Some fans have evidently taken Williams’ advice to heart.
I think we’re a little early for the game... Holt’s Huts: Home of the Nuts!! pic.twitter.com/2M2eMyGkyI— Amanda Schoeffler (@mandaschoeffler) November 29, 2017
The game will ostensibly be the first of the Chris Holtmann era for many Ohio State students, but he downplayed the notion of making a first impression.
“Well, I don’t know if it’s a first impression, but I get your point that it’s the first time in front of the students,” he said when I asked him about that. “There’s over 5,000 student tickets given away, which is outstanding. There’s plenty more opportunity for that. We’d certainly love to have them out there. Every time you go out you have an opportunity to define who you are and who you want to be as a team and as a program and that’ll be the case certainly tomorrow against a real quality opponent. I know our guys are excited about it. I’m excited about the preparation going into it.
“So far, there certainly has been some excitement with our students. I guess free tickets helps that. We’re looking forward to it. Hopefully we’ll get a lot more given away and look forward to seeing a great environment here in the Schott tomorrow.”
Sophomore center Micah Potter continues to battle a left ankle injury sustained during the second half of Ohio State’s last home game, an 80-55 win against Northeastern on Nov. 19. In Portland, he missed the opening game against Gonzaga and was able to play only a combined 10 minutes in the final two games.
The injury has lingered longer than the Buckeyes were hoping, and although Holtmann was noncommittal Tuesday, it’s unlikely Potter can return and play any sort of significant role against Clemson.
“You could tell he didn’t have the kind of lift or explosiveness that he needs (Sunday against Butler) and I just told him, at the second half I asked how he was doing and he said it was bothering him,” Holtmann said. “I said we’ll just sit you out the rest of the time here. Obviously would’ve liked to have had him, but I thought Keita (Bates-Diop) and Kaleb (Wesson) did some good things in that game.”
As a starter, Wesson averaged 9.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in Portland.
“There’s obviously an adjustment to the rotation but I feel like every day we prepare the same,” Wesson said Tuesday. “(Micah’s) always the first one on the bench to greet me and tell me what I need to do and what I’m doing well. That’s good leadership.”
According to ESPN, Ohio State’s win percentage against Butler with less than four minutes to play was 99.6 percent. You know what happened next: a 15-point lead evaporated and the Buckeyes took a one-point overtime loss in an emotional game against Holtmann’s former team.
The Buckeyes flew home that night and had a light Monday practice that consisted primarily of film work, stretching and recovery as opposed to a full-on practice. Tuesday was slated to be a much more typical practice, and as such Williams said assessing how the team might respond to such a difficult loss before practicing wasn’t easy.
Holtmann said he’s not worried.
“They were fine,” he said. “With our players, I don’t think there was added emotion in the Butler game. I’d be surprised if there was. I didn’t talk to them much about it. I think they approached it like any other game, which is what I would expect them to. They were disappointed. We were disappointed in how we finished obviously. We did some good things to get the lead like we did. I was not necessarily disappointed in the overtime. A few spots there, but I thought we did a pretty good job there from losing the lead.
“We’ll see how we respond. It’s a bunch of unknowns.”
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