Ohio State basketball hits road to face toughest opponent yet in veteran Notre Dame team

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State players Zed Key Jr., Musa Jallow and Harrison Hookfin sing "Carmen Ohio" after a win over Illinois State on Nov. 25.

The Ohio State men's basketball team was winding down Friday’s practice when David Egelhoff approached coach Chris Holtmann.

As he walked past, the team’s director of basketball operations told Holtmann that the team’s Saturday game scheduled against Alabama A&M had been canceled due to a positive test within the Bulldogs’ program. It came after they had made the 500-mile bus trip to Columbus.

“I acted like I didn’t hear him,” Holtmann said. “I didn’t want our guys to be alarmed. They handled it OK but they were disappointed, as you’d expect. They wanted to play.”

The game against the Bulldogs wasn’t a marquee game on the schedule, but it did cost the Buckeyes (3-0) another opportunity to prepare themselves for their first game against a high-major opponent.

Tuesday night, No. 22 Ohio State will go to Notre Dame (1-1) as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. It’ll be a tougher challenge than what the Buckeyes have faced to this point, and it’s also the first time they’ve traveled together since a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten tournament that was canceled back in March.

Like most games this season, it won’t be a true road environment. Only family members of players are allowed to attend, but it’s still a new type of obstacle for this year’s Ohio State team, which has played one game at Value City Arena and two at the Covelli Center.

“It’ll be some type of road environment but I don’t think there’s anything like going and experiencing it,” Holtmann said. “I’m really anxious to see how we will be and how we’ll respond, both to that and against a veteran team.”

The plan is for the Buckeyes to replace the canceled game, and the initial hope was to put a replacement on the calendar for last weekend. The Ohio State coaches worked on the possibility into Friday night but the necessary testing protocols made such a quick pivot impossible. Opponents must share their recent testing data with Ohio State’s medical staff and have all negative tests both the day before and the day of the game.

Should Ohio State find a suitable replacement game, it could be played at any point of the year. The first Big Ten game for the Buckeyes is scheduled for Dec. 16, when they will play at Purdue.

Immediate reinforcements could be on the way as well. Both forward Seth Towns (knee) and guard Musa Jallow (lower leg) are expected to be game-time decisions, Holtmann said. Towns has practiced full-go for the last week and a half after missing the last two years due to knee injuries while at Harvard. Jallow played in the opener but missed the next two games with Achilles soreness in his right leg. He took a medical redshirt last year after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right ankle.

“It’s really going to depend on what (Towns) feels like is the confidence in his knee,” Holtmann said. “I think he sees light in the tunnel working towards some of the play he had sophomore year, but I think he also sees that could be well in his future.”

The Buckeyes underwent COVID-19 testing Monday morning, Holtmann said, and were set to fly to Notre Dame after that day’s practice. The schedule then calls for them to be tested Tuesday morning before playing the game that night.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

TV: ESPN2

Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)