COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s not clear how to define it, but Chris Holtmann is pretty sure he knows how to get it.
After a 12-point loss at No. 12 Maryland on Tuesday, the Ohio State men’s basketball coach found himself trying to explain the crisis of confidence that seems to have seeped through his shooters.
Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
In a third straight loss, the No. 11 Buckeyes misfired on 22 of their 27 three-point attempts, connecting on only 14.3%.
It was the team’s worst shooting performance since it went 4 of 26 (15.4%) in a loss at Northwestern in the penultimate game of last year’s regular season. This time, in a game where Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington Jr. and CJ Walker combined to miss all of their 15 threes, it seemed that missed shots were feeding into more missed shots.
Clearly something is missing, and Holtmann called it swagger.
"The reality is whatever that means, you don’t get it back on game day," he said. "You just don’t. You get it back every day in practice. It’s a hard thing for a young group to understand. You don’t get it back because I say, ‘Hey, we need to get our swagger back,’ (or) you watch a highlight video, (or) you feel good in warm-ups.
"Whatever that means, ‘Get your swagger back,’ you earn that. You earn that with your daily approach, and I think for us we’ve got to learn that."
Even with the benefit of hindsight, Holtmann said he didn’t think a letdown was coming after an 11-1 start based on practice habits. The third-year coach noted dryly that he hasn’t kicked his players out of practice or anything along those lines but added that there still needs to be daily growth in how the team approaches practice if it wants to reestablish itself as a Big Ten contender.
The lone scholarship senior on this season’s roster, forward Andre Wesson played a prominent role on a team that pulled itself off the floor when a five-game losing streak last January threatened to derail the season. After scoring 14 points in the loss to the Terrapins, Wesson said he’s putting more personal responsibility on his shoulders while preaching what it takes to snap a slide.
"Just getting our confidence and swagger back in practice," he said. "The only way you get back to doing hard things — winning — is doing hard things over and over again, and that’s competing in practice, guys struggling and getting extra reps up, extra shots up."
Wesson agreed with the sentiment that confidence is lacking among some of the Buckeyes at the moment. Freshman D.J. Carton, who made his first career start as Walker recovered from flu-like symptoms, said he understands what the senior was talking about.
"I feel like we had a different energy from the beginning of the season," he said. "We’ve got to get this swagger back, and it all starts in practice."
Of course, talking about showing daily improvement in practice and actually doing it are two different things. It’s worth noting, too, that the last two games have been without junior Kyle Young, whose energy and physicality might not have turned the tide at Maryland but surely would’ve impacted last Friday’s home loss to unranked Wisconsin.
He could be back as soon as Saturday at Indiana. If that happens, and the Buckeyes can embrace the daily grind Holtmann is preaching, it could lead to a turning point. Or at least some more swagger.
"Any time you lose three games, confidence is going to be down, but we’re a good team," Wesson said. "We’ve got to realize that. We’re a good team and we haven’t gotten any worse. Kyle’s going to come back and we’re just going to get stronger so that’s something we’ve just got to remember."