One day removed from a loss at Michigan State that dropped Ohio State to 6-8 in the Big Ten, men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann participated in his weekly call-in show Monday.
In case you couldn’t listen, here are the highlights.
*Chronologically, the first half of the Michigan State game brought some positive thoughts from Holtmann.
“I thought our guys really defended well and took Michigan State out of a lot of what they were trying to do,” he said. “Made it difficult for Cassius to make plays. Challenged a lot of shots. Offensively we were able to make some shots, get out in transition, attack inside-out. In the first half for the most part we took care of it effectively. Positioned ourselves well going into halftime for sure.”
Then came the second half.
“The 7-minute mark on, I think that’s when our frustration with not being able to score the ball, we had some silly turnovers, some missed shots in transition, we had a couple layups that we missed,” he said. “I thought we just had a couple plays that if you allow them to, they can really frustrate you. I think with Michigan State as good as they are, and they’re certainly one of the elite teams in the country, we match up in certain ways with them differently than other teams in our league. It gives us a chance.
“I thought the guys did a really good job in terms of the defensive game plan for the bulk of the game. We just weren’t able to score it as well.”
*Holtmann took a submitted question about trying to get into a rhythm with half-court offensive sets.
“We didn’t have trouble getting into our sets yesterday,” he said. “We did in the Illinois game. You can’t run a whole lot of sets against them with the way they defend. Yesterday we were able to get into them, we were just not able to execute as well as we would’ve liked to and we missed some shots. I think our guys are doing a good job having opportunities to attack. We just need to step up and make some shots, which we will.”
*Michigan State’s Nick Ward went out with what is now known to be a hairline fracture in his left hand, but Kaleb Wesson wasn’t able to assert himself and anchor the offense late. Holtmann was asked about his offense trying to get the ball to the sophomore center.
“Kaleb touched the ball in both halves about 60 percent of our offensive possessions,” he said. “There were opportunities. I think he did a really good job taking advantage of some of those opportunities. In the second half we had turnovers out of the post a couple of times. He had a terrific baseline spin move and short-armed it and missed it. He did struggle a little bit with his fitness and conditioning in a game like yesterday. Our guys did a good job finding him. He answered the ball a couple times. We went to him early and he did a good job getting possession deep.
“His efficiency because of how close he is to the basket, if we can get him closer to 60 percent, making 65 percent of those, and I think he can get there at some point in his career. His two-point percentage needs to improve and I’m sure it will.”
Wesson picked up just one foul in the game.
“He played smarter,” Holtmann said. “The game was a little bit more physical, but I don’t remember a whole lot more collisions with him. I’ve watched the game now three times and I don’t recall thinking that wasn’t a smart play defensively. He played smart in terms of not fouling. His ball screen coverage was pretty good most of the night. The post trapping keeps him out of foul trouble.”
*Holtmann said he didn’t see C.J. Jackson injure his ankle during the second half.
“He turned his ankle, went back and got it taped by Jeff Deits and came back in and a couple possessions and it wasn’t going to work,” he said. “At that point, I don’t think the game was out of hand. With this stretch coming up, we couldn’t risk putting him back in.”
No further update on the ankle was offered. Sophomore Kyle Young is “still feeling his way back” after the stress fracture injury and said is dealing with some pain, Holtmann said.
*A submitted question asked Holtmann if he pays attention to NCAA Tournament projections.
“In a week or two, given if we’re in position, whatever that looks like, then I think I’ll spend some time taking a look at it,” Holtmann said. “We’ve got some work ahead of us. We’ve obviously got to focus on the moment and the day. It’s tremendous that we’re playing games that really matter in February. We’ve got some work to do and it’s still early. We’ll see how these next two weeks go and if we’re in positions where we’re perceived to be on the bubble or around the bubble…I don’t know what looking at it does for me outside of get me more worked up about the future.”
*Holtmann has tried a few different ways to get the attention of players this season.
“I have kicked someone out of practice this year, but I will wait until after the season to tell you who,” he said. “It was early in the year. It was more a by-product of, I wanted him to work a little harder and wasn’t getting the message through to him.”
*The three-point line could be increased a little further in the next 5-10 years, Holtmann said, to get closer to the NBA’s range. He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see such a change.
*Recruiting is “a daily discipline for the staff,” Holtmann said. “I’ve been out as much this year as any as a head coach and that will probably continue to be the case. Once the season’s over, the next six weeks are so busy. I am everywhere, but in-season your focus really needs to be our players and our team and our progress.”