ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Whatever went through coach Chris Holtmann's mind when Ohio State sophomore Luther Muhammad dropped to his knees in pain, it wasn't good.
Five days removed from suffering a separated shoulder in practice, the guard crumpled Tuesday night after taking contact during the second half of a 61-58 win at Michigan. Once play was eventually stopped, he was helped to the locker room at the Crisler Center and returned to watch the rest of the game from the bench.
“He could have gone (back in),” Holtmann said after the game. “I made sure of that, that (athletic trainer) Brad (Watson) said he could go back in the game. But it's a concern for us, as obviously our depth is a concern there.”
Muhammad's situation, coupled with D.J. Carton's absence as he takes an indefinite leave from the team to deal with mental health issues, gave Holtmann only two available scholarship guards: CJ Walker and Duane Washington Jr. Late in the game against the Wolverines, Holtmann could be seen speaking to senior walk-on Danny Hummer, who was nodding his head in acknowledgement. On Monday, the coach said Hummer could become an option if foul trouble or injury hits the backcourt.
After suffering the injury Thursday, Muhammad was held out of contact in practice Friday before reporting no further issues Saturday for a win over Indiana.
At times, Holtmann has subbed Washington and Muhammad in for each other in offense-defense situations: Washington for offense and Muhammad for defense. He didn't do that against Michigan partly because of the injury and because he didn't like what he saw the last time he did so.
“Duane screwed up an off-the-ball assignment, lost his man and they got an open three, and I almost took him out, but I felt like he's a sophomore (and) he's got to learn and get better in some of those areas,” Holtmann said. “I'm glad I didn't, because he ended up making a three the next time down.”
Adding to the situation is the black shoulder brace Muhammad donned against the Hoosiers in a game in which he played 28 minutes and finished with five points on 2-of-8 shooting. He wore it for the first half against the Wolverines but shed it at halftime.
The injury came with 8:42 to play when Muhammad cut through the lane and, after making contact with a defender, lost the ball. Michigan pushed the five-on-four advantage and got a Zavier Simpson three-pointer to reclaim the lead at 41-40 when play was whistled dead and Muhammad checked out with 8:33 left.
Against the Wolverines, Muhammad missed all three field-goal attempts and had one rebounds, one assist and two turnovers in 18:30. For the season, he is averaging 5.9 points while shooting 33.9% from the floor and 31.3% from three.
Holtmann said he wasn't aware that Muhammad removed the brace at halftime and that he wasn't supposed to do so.
“It's not healthy enough for him to take it off,” Holtmann said of Muhammad's shoulder. “He probably doesn't like it because it affects his shooting.”