Ohio State has lost its defensive linchpin and a key contributor for an indefinite length of time. After Luther Muhammad had to leave Wednesday night’s Syracuse game with what coach Chris Holtmann said at the time was a dislocated left shoulder, the diagnosis has been confirmed through further testing and it is unclear when he will return to action.
“The diagnosis the other night was shoulder dislocation,” Holtmann said Friday afternoon at Value City Arena. “He’s been evaluated, had the necessary testing, MRI done and he’s out indefinitely. There’s no timetable right now that I can give you on his return. It’s really going to depend on how he responds to treatment. At this point there’s no timeline I can give you other than he’s out indefinitely. I would assume that would mean he’s doubtful for Sunday night.”
Through seven games, Muhammad is third on the team with an average of 8.9 points per game. His 27.3 minutes per game are second-most on the roster, and he has started all but one game while proving himself to be a feisty, aggressive defender.
For the season, he has a team-best plus-minus rating of plus-119.
“He had had a terrific start for us and impacted the game on both ends,” Holtmann said. “It is a significant impact but we have confidence in the next guys in the rotation being able to step up in his absence. What that will look like specifically, we’re still trying to figure that out, how we’ll juggle our lineup. Haven’t specifically decided on what that’s going to look like.”
The two primary options are graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods and freshman Duane Washington Jr. Holtmann has said he likes having an experienced option off the bench, a role that Woods has played, and also likes the offensive spark that Washington brings.
Holtmann said he’ll look at who plays best with whom as one of the primary factors in deciding how to replace Muhammad. The top-performing lineup that doesn’t include the freshman is a grouping of C.J. Jackson, Washington, Woods, Musa Jallow and Kaleb Wesson. That group is plus-17 in 12:30 spread across four appearances, scoring 27 points and allowing 10.
Muhammad suffered the injury with 1:06 to play against Syracuse. As he was cutting across the defensive lane with his hands straight up, teammate Kyle Young went up to contest the shot and collided with Muhammad, causing him to fall hard and awkwardly on his left shoulder. He writhed in pain for a moment on the court as Holtmann and team medical personnel rushed out to attend to him.
Once his shoulder was popped back in, Muhammad eschewed a quick exit through the nearby tunnel to the locker room and took the longer walk past both benches. Syracuse’s Paschal Chukwu offered him a pat on the chest as he went by.
“I don’t know exactly what his absence is going to do to the spirit of our team,” Holtmann said. “He brought a lot of spirit to our group our first concern in all of this is Luther’s health. It’s not by any stretch career-damaging. … It’s a significant injury that will need time to heal. How it impacts our team will be interesting to see.”