Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann hosted his weekly radio show Monday night.
In case you couldn’t listen, here are the highlights.
• The Buckeyes are in the midst of a 10-day break in the schedule before they host Bucknell on Saturday. Holtmann was asked how he has approached the time away from game action.
“Ten days is a long time,” he said. “We play a very good Bucknell team that won 25 games last year and almost beat Michigan State the year before. Been to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. They’re very good. You’re always concerned about this layoff and bringing your kids back. Conditioning, how sharp will you be; there will be some rust we’ll have to shake off. (Tuesday) we’re going to play an extended scrimmage, because we’re off on Wednesday. Try to get our guys back sharper. We were a little bit better (Monday) than we were (Sunday). We were not very good (Sunday). Some of it is the fatigue with finals and studying – at least I hope that was the reason. We try to give them adequate rest but at the same time keep them sharp and ready to go for noon on Saturday.
“We mix up even teams when we scrimmage. One assistant coach takes one team, one assistant coach takes another team and that other assistant coach is helping officiate with myself. I’m kind of coaching both teams but I’m really letting them coach those guys.”
• Next year’s regular-season game against West Virginia, which will be played at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, was confirmed by Holtmann.
“It’s another very challenging schedule that we’ve put together next year when you look at all our non-conference, elite-level competition,” he said. “We debated on doing it, but just felt like we wanted to put another really challenge schedule together.”
• Holtmann addressed the three players who signed with Ohio State for the class of 2019, in the order in which they joined the program.
“Alonzo Gaffney, tremendously talented player,” he said. “Great length. (He’s) 6-9, 7-4 wingspan. That’s long. Really versatile and a tremendous talent from Ohio. DJ Carton, a tremendously talented guard that has athleticism and burst and quickness. We’re really excited about him. EJ Liddell is a versatile interior guy that can play inside-outside. Capable of both. Physical and tough. Fits the identity of our team in terms of how physical and tough and competitive he is. The exciting for me is our current players were instrumental in those three guys coming. Our current players welcomed them. They were great on the official visit. They understood if we’re going to be great these guys are going to continue to be important. I’m excited about our current players and the youth we have here currently and adding these three young men to this group.”
Then, Holtmann addressed their recruitments and what the Buckeyes said while recruiting them – and what they didn’t.
“These recruitments, they are nasty in terms of how competitive they get,” he said. “Our policy is, we’re not talking about any other school, but we certainly have other schools talk about us and we just have decided we’re going to be committed to talking about us as a program and what we think we can bring for the young man and his family and let them figure out everything else. It was three very competitive, down-to-the-wire recruitments. This freshman class here, it was the same way.”
• Holtmann was whistled for his first technical foul of the season in the Illinois game, and he was asked about that.
“I never want to get a technical,” he said. “My brother asked me that. A couple people told me, ‘You stopped the fast break with the technical.’ I said, ‘I wish I was that smart. I had no idea.’ I just was frustrated with a prior three or four what I felt were missed calls where they were fouling us or riding us up the lane. The frustration was, let’s just say, raising the temperature in the room and I kind of lost it. I didn’t necessarily plan that. I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a technical where I said, ‘I’m planning to get a technical to fire up our team or to send a message to the officials.’ It’s usually just a complete and utter losing my mind.”
Later, Holtmann was asked if there’s a magic word that would guarantee getting a technical foul.
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “I would say there’s not just one word. There’s a variety of words, and you can use them in different sequences and really in different ways: adjective, noun, however you want to use them. I would say that I used a couple of those in the Illinois game. I’m not super proud of that. Whenever I do use one of those words I try to cover my mouth for all the young people watching. I was out on the floor, which is always going to give you a technical foul. You can be demonstrative and not use any type of profanity. I’ve gotten a technical just from being demonstrative, and then I’ve also done the other thing.”
• Illinois coach Brad Underwood, on the other hand, did not receive a technical despite frequent second-half outbursts as the foul calls piled up.
“I said to the one who gave me the technical, ‘Man, he’s saying things to you that I didn’t say to you and you’re not giving him a technical,’ ” Holtmann said. “He said, ‘Trust me, you got your money’s worth.’ So I shut up at that point. He probably wanted a technical late and they said, ‘We’re not giving it to you.’ ”
• On the injury report, Holtmann was asked about Luther Muhammad’s pain level in his first game back from a dislocated shoulder.
“He’s a really tough kid,” Holtmann said. “I was a little cautious about playing him in the Illinois game because you know there are certain games where there’s going to be a lot of contact. It’s just going to be physical, and there was a lot of fouls in that game. I was watching the game that night on the flight back that just describe him to a ‘T.’ There were two loose-ball rebounds and he led with his dislocated shoulder. I always tell guys, ‘I can tell right away if you’re soft or if you’re tough.’ That’s who that kid is. He got both of them.”
Apparently Muhammad tried to start the second half without his shoulder brace, but the staff quickly rectified that situation.
• I recently tweeted that it seemed to me that sophomore Musa Jallow was really starting to make an impact aside from the obvious scoring contributions he was making. Holtmann said that has indeed been the case.
“I don’t really know if there’s anything I can put my finger on other than he made a few shots in the Minnesota game and he made a couple open ones against Illinois,” he said, “but he also did a good job moving without the ball, which is really key for him. He’s more of a wing naturally anyway. Last year because of our guard depth we had to play him a little bit in a different role. With young men, they want more and if they’re patient and keep working usually good things happen. I think he just got in a situation in both games where he was ready when his number was called. He’s got to continue to be a guy who can rebound and be a versatile defender for us. I’ve been on him and a little bit disappointed because I don’t think he’s been quite as good defensively as I expect him to be. He’s had a major impact for us in these last two games. He was instrumental in both wins.”
• A submitted question asked about the team building chemistry despite so many new faces.
“Our staff does a great job building relationships with players,” he said. “I think that helps our overall chemistry. I think all of us are dealing in relationships and what we’re looking for is people that we can trust and people that are honest with us, and if you have enough of that you can usually build good chemistry if everybody’s moving in the same direction. I give our staff and players a lot of credit for that. We’ve had really good chemistry for the last two years.
“Our biggest question was and still is where our leadership is going to come from throughout the season. I think C.J. Jackson has done a really good job in some areas but he needs help in terms of leadership. Joey has an influence in his role. After that, it’s really a combination of a lot of young guys. I don’t know that I’ve coached a group where I’ve looked out on the floor and said wow, we have four of our five players on the floor are sophomores or juniors. Keyshawn’s also been a guy that in a quiet way has led, maybe more with his play. Every day he’s come in and worked and tried to do the right thing. It’s given C.J. and those older guys another guy to lean on.”
• After going scoreless against Minnesota, Keyshawn Woods led the Buckeyes with 18 points in the win at Illinois.
“I don’t think he would’ve had the Illinois game that he had if he didn’t have the attitude and approach after the Minnesota game,” Holtmann said. “If you’re a kid who’s pouting for whatever reason or you’re upset that you didn’t play well or get the kind of minutes, then it’s usually going to affect you in the next game. It didn’t bother him at all. He knew he made some mistakes and turned it over and it just wasn’t his night offensively, but he had a great approach. When we were talking to him about coming to Ohio State, I was very curious to see how much he would talk about winning. Guys transfer for various reasons. It was the first thing he mentioned: ‘Coach, I want to win. I want to get back to the tournament. I only went once. Once in four years isn’t enough.’ ”
• As for the Illinois defense, Holtmann said, “It’s really feast or famine in a lot of ways. Their turnover percentage defensively is always very, very high, one of the best in the country. They also can struggle in some areas when they’re not turning you over, so it was incumbent on us to make good decisions and make the right reads. You can’t run certain stuff against them because you can’t reverse the ball. They don’t let you reverse the ball. You dribble more in that game than you’re going to in most games and ultimately your guards are going to have to make plays. That’s what you saw in the second half particularly, our guards made some plays for themselves and some guys made some back-cuts and scored.”
• The decision to play or not play a guy with two fouls in the first half “is really a feel thing,” Holtmann said. “We will usually play guys with two fouls unless he gets it with four or five minutes to go and we’re in a comfortable place.”
• Holtmann said, “We’ve got to foul less,” but added, “We’re always going to be an aggressive defensive team. It’s my nature. I want to foul less, but we probably won’t lead the country in not fouling.”
• Last season, Holtmann said Jae’Sean Tate would frequently text teammates to encourage and support them throughout the season.