Ohio State men's basketball | On radio show, Chris Holtmann talks frustration with foul calls on Kaleb Wesson

Adam Jardy
Ohio State Head Coach Chris Holtmann holds the ball that was thrown out of bounds in the second half during the game against High Point Panthers at Value City Arena in Columbus on December 29, 2018. [Samantha Madar]

Two days after the Ohio State men’s basketball team lost at Iowa, marking three straight Big Ten losses for the Buckeyes, coach Chris Holtmann hosted his weekly radio show.

If you couldn’t listen, here are the highlights.

*There is a balance to showing film from losses between harping on the negative and ignoring it. Holtmann said this situation is challenging his team.

“One of the things we’re learning with this team is when you start out 12-1 you don’t have experience going through a time like this and you’re trying to take the temperature of your team to see where they’re at,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to have regular meetings one on one with our players and discuss as much as we can.”

*Freshman Justin Ahrens played the most-significant Big Ten minutes of his career at Iowa, and Holtmann said the forward has been ideal in practiced this year.

“Justin has had what you hope for from every freshman in that he’s had an everyday approach,” he said. “The reason I’m so confident he’s going to be a really good player in our system in time is he’s had the model approach and attitude every day. He loves Ohio State, loves this place and cares about Ohio State winning. He’s got some real tools as a player. There’s no question there’s an adjustment period for him as a freshman. Good to see him healthy.”

*A submitted question asked how many losses a Big Ten team could have and win the league.

“It’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t think the league champion would have as few as two losses like Michigan State did last year. The last time that we went 15-3 or had that percentage in league play, and it was our team that was No. 1 in the country that year. The league was different. It wasn’t as deep as it is this year. Michigan and Michigan State, they’re playing very well and I don’t know how many losses they’ll have but I think it will be more than what Michigan State had last year.”

*Sophomore center Kaleb Wesson has been in foul trouble in each of the last three games, and Holtmann said he’s addressed it with “the powers that be” in the Big Ten.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics, but I’ve made my feelings known in a variety of ways,” he said. “(I’ve) tried to communicate my concerns at how I think he is being officiated and how I don’t think there is always, there’s no question that he has fouled at times I don’t think every one of them has been a foul. I also think he’s being held and grabbed way too much at the other end. People talk about freedom of movement for drivers, there’s times he can’t move. He should be given the same amount of freedom at the other end.

“Having said that, we bear responsibility making sure Kaleb’s fundamentals are absolutely on point. The other day, he still played with two fouls in the first half and I don’t know how much it limited us as a team. I think in other games, it has. That’s not the reason we lost the game the other day. But I’m disappointed with a few things on that, but we’ve got to take accountability for it, we’ve got to coach him better and he’s got to respond.”

Holtmann later added that both coach and player are frustrated with how games have been called against Wesson.

*Ideally, Holtmann said 26-28 minutes on a given night would be ideal for Wesson given how much the Buckeyes ask him to do at both ends of the court.

*There’s no such thing as thinking too much about the 21 turnovers the Buckeyes had against Iowa on Saturday, evidently.

“I don’t mind if they’re thinking about it because the reality is that’s limiting us as a team right now,” Holtmann said. “We had turnovers that were a by-product of just carelessness. Give Iowa’s length credit, but really careless passes. I think we had some offensive fouls that led to turnovers, but I just think we had a couple games where we were good in that area but we have really taken a step back. Perhaps that’s a situation where the ball’s not in the right guys’ hands enough, and that’s on me. We played a lot of guys the other day, so the ball was in a lot of different guys’ hands. That can be a situation that can lead to some more turnovers.”

*Holtmann said freshman Duane Washington Jr. is working through some fatigue right now.

“Duane’s got to continue to have a feel for what’s a good shot and what’s not a good shot,” he said. “I think he’s getting a little better in that area, but he’s missed some very good looks. That happens when you’re a freshman. He has to understand that he can impact our team in other ways than just making shots. That’s a constant reminder for him. He’s hit some very important, timely shots for us, but I think there is a level of fatigue with him a little bit right now and he’s just got to work his way through it.”

*A submitted question asked about guard CJ Walker, who is sitting out the season after transferring from Florida State.

“Transfers sometimes get a little forgotten about, but he’s a tremendous person and I think going to be a really good player for us,” Holtmann said. “He’s really helped us in practice. He’s a bulldog. He is a tough, competitive guy. He just has to continue to understand our system, stay in great shape. He’s doing extra (conditioning) work. He’s been a resource for some of these young guys to lean on as well. He’s played a lot of the scout team point guard for us and done a great job with that stuff, offensively and defensively.”

Last season, Holtmann said, walk-on transfer Danny Hummer was given a waiver to allow him to travel with the team during the second semester. The Buckeyes have put in a similar one for Walker.

*The Buckeyes continue to work on their matchup zone defense.

“We have it in,” he said. “We’ve used it on occasion. I was just talking to a very well-known coach today who runs a matchup zone as his secondary defense. We were talking a little bit about how much they’re practicing it right now. Defensively we’ve got to get better, but collectively throughout the year we’ve bene good. Offensively is where we’ve really struggled the last three games.”

In a perfect world, Holtmann said he’d prefer to basically be an exclusively man-to-man defensive team.

“We have seen more zone than I have probably ever seen through 16 games,” Holtmann said. “We have been effective at times. It’s part of the reason why I think we’re going to work on our zone defense more in practice because we’re going to have to work more on our zone offense.”

*The Buckeyes stuck around after practice Sunday to get extra shots up, Holtmann said. Monday was a mandatory day off.


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