Ohio State will bring a nearly complete roster to Saturday's road game against Penn State.
Sophomore guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr., who were both suspended for Tuesday's home win against Nebraska, have been reinstated by coach Chris Holtmann for the game against the Nittany Lions.
“They're expected to play,” Holtmann said. “It was always in my mind (that it was) probably going to be a one-game suspension. I just wanted to think through it a little more, have a little bit of additional conversations. That was always my intent.”
With the expected return of the duo comes a hit to Ohio State's frontcourt depth. Freshman Alonzo Gaffney, who played six minutes against the Cornhuskers, is expected to miss the game while being evaluated for a knee injury, Holtmann said Friday.
Shortly before Tuesday's game, the university announced that Muhammad and Washington had been suspended for “a failure to meet program standards and expectations.” Both watched the game, an 80-68 win that snapped a three-game losing streak, in the locker room.
Afterward, teammates Kaleb Wesson and CJ Walker expressed their support for the guards and said they looked forward to having them back on the court soon.
“It's letting guys know what's tolerable and what's not,” Wesson said. “This is just a learning step. We went through the same thing last year. You learn from it, you move on.”
That night, Holtmann said he wasn't sending one specific message to the players but pointed out that it wasn't about just one game. Friday, he said it's too early to tell how deeply the message was received.
“We'll see,” he said. “I think that's an ongoing process. I don't think it's anything that can be determined in one day, two days, one week. I think we'll see how they handle it moving forward. I think it's part of the life of a season that you have some suspensions and you have some things that happen.
“I hope it doesn't happen again, but if it does this year, we'll address it. I think it's an opportunity for guys to learn.”
The suspension came one game after Ohio State lost 66-54 at Indiana. During that game, Washington started but played only eight minutes as Holtmann sat him after a few defensive lapses.
Without Muhammad and Washington against Nebraska, Holtmann started Walker, a junior, and freshman D.J. Carton in the backcourt and played senior walk-on Danny Hummer for two minutes during the first half. Carton and Walker set season-high marks in minutes played at 38 and 37, respectively. The starting lineup, which also featured Andre Wesson, Kyle Young and Kaleb Wesson, played 15:09 together, tops for a starting lineup in any Ohio State game this season.
Washington is the team's second-leading scorer at 10.7 points per game and has started 11 of the 14 games he has played this season. Muhammad, who like much of the team has been in an offensive slump in recent games, averages 6.5 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. He has started 15 of the 16 games in which he has played.
“They're two kids we care about,” Holtmann said. “We certainly want the best for them, but it was, I think, best for them and best for our team. They've had great attitudes.”