Chris Holtmann, Mark Turgeon still sparring over Kaleb Wesson
Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann closed his Wednesday press conference by defending center Kaleb Wesson against comments Maryland coach Mark Turgeon made immediately after Sunday’s game and has echoed in interviews since.
Following Ohio State’s 79-72 win against Maryland at Value City Arena, Turgeon described Wesson as a “bully” who put his forearm into the chest of Terrapins center Jalen Smith on multiple occasions during the game.
Holtmann was asked about the criticism after the game and, while expressing surprise at Turgeon’s comments, stuck up for his player and the physicality with which teams routinely bring against him.
Wednesday, though, Holtmann had more to say.
“I continue to take issue with the comments,” he said. “I have a ton of respect for Mark and the Maryland team and the Maryland program, but I just continue to take issue with the way he characterized Kaleb’s play. I just think it’s inappropriate. I’ve never seen this much conversation after a loss.”
Since the loss, Turgeon has twice referenced the situation in interviews. When meeting with local reporters Tuesday, Turgeon said, according to the Washington Post, “Complaining (in any official capacity) is a waste of time for me. It doesn't do me any good. But it was really like the big brother picking on the little brother, and the parents were just letting him do it. Guys have got to do a better job. I complained the whole game, didn't do any good. I'll lose my mind on Wednesday if it happens again. ... Hopefully the parents will be in the room on Wednesday night.”
Also Tuesday, Turgeon appeared on the Courtside with Greenberg & Dakich podcast, where he referred to Wesson again as a “bully” and said he felt the three officials from Sunday’s game should have to sit out a game as punishment.
The first-place Terrapins play at Minnesota on Wednesday night. Ohio State plays at Nebraska on Thursday night.
“I understand there’s probably some maneuvering in terms of the next game they play, but no one is scrutinized more in terms of officiating than Kaleb Wesson,” Holtmann said Wednesday. “When we played in College Park, they flopped a couple times and it was called and we shot a free throw on it. We showed that could be the case again. He’s adjusted, but he is scrutinized as much as anybody in this league when it comes to officiating and he’s had to adjust.”
As a sophomore, Wesson averaged 5.0 fouls per 40 minutes of action and drew 6.9. This season, while playing more on the perimeter at times, he has averaged 4.2 fouls per 40 minutes and drawn 5.7.
Holtmann said the officials had no conversations with him during the game Sunday about the play of Wesson and Smith. The game also featured a late flagrant foul against Maryland’s Anthony Cowan that fouled him out of the game for the final moments, a call that likewise drew Turgeon’s ire.
“I thought that was certainly not the most physical game we’ve been involved in,” Holtmann said. “Kaleb’s a difficult guy to officiate because of how big he is, and the hours of film that we’ve watched so that he would continue to grow and adjust, the kid deserves some credit for being in less foul trouble than what he is this year. There’s a fine line, because we always want him to be physical but at times physical play can result in offensive fouls. His technique has been outstanding. His technique was very good in that game (Sunday).”
In a 67-55 loss at Maryland on Jan. 7, Wesson finished with 15 points and four personal fouls. Sunday, he had 15 points and three fouls.
“I thought that those comments afterwards were just, quite honestly, a little bit out of place,” Holtmann said. “Again, tremendous respect for Mark. I think he’s a tremendous coach. I think the job that he’s done this year is tremendous and they’ve got a team that is going to be well-positioned for a great run. They’ve had a great season. We’re certainly moving on, but it was hard to let that one rest. I think the continued dialogue is why I’m addressing it.
“I thought the whole characterization of his play was wrong and out of place.”