Following what was hoped to be a spirited practice inside Value City Arena, No. 14 Ohio State was slated to leave to face No. 3 Purdue on Tuesday evening.
Suspended guard Kam Williams will not be part of the trip. At pre-practice interviews, coach Chris Holtmann confirmed that the fifth-year senior will miss his second straight game after landing a suspension of unspecified length for an undisclosed violation of team rules announced roughly two hours before Sunday’s home game against Illinois. The Dispatch reported Sunday that Williams was facing a suspension of three-to-five games.
“He’s got class he needs to attend to (Wednesday), so he’ll be here in Columbus finishing up work,” Holtmann said. “He’s got a project, and going to class. We’ll reevaluate things on Thursday.”
In 24 appearances including 16 starts, Williams has averaged 8.0 points per game while shooting 46.3 percent from three-point range, the sixth-best mark in the Big Ten. Without him against the Fighting Illini, the Buckeyes started sophomore forward Andre Wesson in what amounted to a bigger lineup that also allowed them to switch on more screens defensively. Wesson averages only 2.2 points per game but is four inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Williams.
Holtmann has not committed to Wesson as the clear-cut starter in place of Williams, who is expected to return by the end of the season, and mentioned graduate transfer guard Andrew Dakich as also being a possibility. Ohio State’s starting lineup against Illinois was the first time that group had played together all season, and junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said the group has benefited from extra practice time since then.
“It definitely helps because we have a game under our belt now,” he said. “We’ve got a few practice days without him. Dre’s done really good in his role so far. I don’t think we’re worried about it moving forward.”
Added senior forward Jae’Sean Tate, “With Dre’s size and his ability to guard different positions, it actually helps us on the defensive end whereas we’re going to have to pick and choose our spots on the offensive end a little better, making sure we get the correct shot.”
Holtmann was asked if his message was getting across to Williams.
“Yeah,” he said. “Kam and I had a conversation going into the game the other day and I think Kam accepts responsibility and I think is ready to move forward and we’ll be excited, I know his teammates will to, to have him back playing hopefully in short order.”
In preparing for Purdue, Holtmann said he was watching game film of the Boilermakers against Michigan when he noticed center Isaac Haas appeared to be unguarded. Then the camera shifted to show that the 7-2 senior center was simply so big his profile screened his defender from the view of the camera. It also revealed that the big guy trying to guard Haas was actually the center and not the power forward.
It will take a team effort to try and combat Haas’ size and likely starts with freshman Kaleb Wesson, who at 6-9, 270 pounds is five inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than his Wednesday night counterpart. To try and prepare for Haas, the Buckeyes have occasionally turned to a student assistant coach: Greg Oden, the 7-0 former No. 1 NBA draft pick.
“If you know Greg, it’s kind of hard (to stop him),” Tate said. “I mean, he’s a No. 1 pick. There’s nothing else to say about that. I think Kaleb has done a great job of doing the best he can on him and it’s going to prepare him the most.
“Actually, he’s pretty nice. We haven’t honestly made him mad and we’ve only played against him nice, so I don’t even want to see him when he’s mad because he’s crazy, he’s nuts.”
Aside from the action in the paint, Holtmann pointed to the need for perimeter players to apply appropriate ball pressure to try and limit Haas’ touches.
“Kaleb is a guy, Micah (Potter), Kyle Young at times, we’re going to have to do it collectively,” he said. “It’s on them to make him work and make him earn it and try to beat him to spots, but there’s a variety of ways to play a guy like that whether you trap in the post or dig it, but their spacing and shooting makes it so difficult. It’s going to be a really physical battle, so a lot is going to be placed on them to do their work early.”