The Ohio State men’s basketball team will host Kent State on Monday night at its former home.
Coach Chris Holtmann made no bones about it Friday night: Value City Arena is the home of the Ohio State men’s basketball program.
And yet, Monday night’s game at nearby St. John Arena remains a cause for celebration. For a second straight season, the Buckeyes will host an in-state school at their former home Monday night when Kent State comes to town.
It promises to be loud, hot and noisy, even with $5 tickets still available as of the morning of the game. Just stop telling Holtmann that all the team’s games should be played there.
"Please, I’m off social media, but last year when we played this I had so many of our great fans talk to me about, ‘Coach, can we move all of our games over there?’ " Holtmann said after Friday night’s 85-46 win against Purdue Fort Wayne at Value City Arena. "I’m off social media, but you can save those. I understand the love and affinity for St. John Arena. I have the same. (Value City Arena) is our home, but I understand everybody’s perspective on that and can appreciate it."
St. John Arena was the program’s home from the 1956-57 season through the 1997-98 season. The first game in the arena was against Butler, which ironically is Holtmann’s prior school, and was a 98-82 win on Dec. 1, 1956. Since the end of the 1998 season, the Buckeyes have played six games at their former home and won them all.
Last year’s 89-62 win against Cleveland State on Nov. 23 was met with near-universal acclaim from fans and players alike.
"It was kind of crazy," sophomore wing Justin Ahrens, who also turns 20 on Monday, said of last year’s game there. "I felt like we were in a movie, because it’s such an old atmosphere. It feels like everyone’s on top of you compared to the Schott. There were a lot of people there. With the throwback uniforms and everything, it’s just a really cool atmosphere and a fun part of the year."
Monday morning, Ohio State posted a photo to Twitter of sophomore guard Luther Muhammad wearing Ohio State’s gray alternate jerseys that haven’t yet been worn this season. For last year’s game, the Buckeyes wore special scarlet throwback jerseys, tying into the overall theme of the game that included retro graphics on the scoreboard and corresponding pregame music.
Friday night, sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. said he hoped to be wearing different uniforms for the game.
"I’m excited to wear something else other than white," he said. "We’ve been wearing white for a minute now. We’ve practiced twice in there. It gets loud in there and it feels like they’re on top of you. It’s going to be a great atmosphere."
Freshman E.J. Liddell is one of four freshmen who will be making his debut at the arena.
"I know it’s great tradition there," he said. "They played basketball there for a long time. Last year, I liked the throwback jerseys. I’ve been waiting to wear those. We’ve practiced in there a few times. I just love the atmosphere that’s in the gym. I feel like that gym is going to get really loud when it comes to Monday."
And despite the logistical challenges that come with playing a game in a different arena and the reality that it’s no longer the actual home for the Buckeyes, Holtmann is looking forward to return. He might even dust off his salmon-colored jacket worn in last year’s game.
"Really excited about it," he said. "I hope that we have a great crowd. We’re playing a really quality opponent and hope we have a great crowd. It’s a different venue and that’ll take some getting used to, but love playing in that environment."