Chris Holtmann sends message to CJ Walker, Kyle Young with lineup change in Purdue loss
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Coach Chris Holtmann hasn’t been shy about hitching success this season to his two seniors.
So when CJ Walker and Kyle Young were announced as reserves as No. 20 Ohio State opened Big Ten basketball play at Purdue on Wednesday night, it reaffirmed the message that he will need more from the duo if the Buckeyes are to get where they want to be this season.
The moves didn’t doom the Buckeyes to what would become a 67-60 loss inside a Mackey Arena dotted with cardboard cutouts and a few parents, but the message was delivered.
“He just wanted us to play harder,” Walker said of the message being sent by Holtmann. “Be more leaders on both sides of the floor. Give more effort. Be vocal. A reality check to not play entitled.”
In Sunday’s win against Cleveland State, Young played a season-low 16:41, went scoreless for the first time this season and nabbed only two rebounds. In his two games leading into the Purdue game, he totaled three points and six rebounds while shooting 1 for 7 from the field, including two misses on three-point attempts.
Walker entered Wednesday’s game with 20 assists and 10 giveaways, but five of his turnovers had come during the past two games while he shot a combined 8 for 22 from the field.
In their places, Bucknell transfer guard Jimmy Sotos and freshman center Zed Key made their first starts for the Buckeyes. The starting lineup of Duane Washington Jr., Musa Jallow, Justice Sueing, Key and Sotos had not played together all season.
Key would battle Purdue’s Trevion Williams — who flirted with a triple-double and finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — and score five points with three rebounds in a career-high 22 minutes. Sotos had three points in seven minutes.
Holtmann pointed out that Williams, one of 10 members of the preseason all-Big Ten team, had been taken out of the Purdue starting lineup for two games and responded well.
Both new starters were replaced before the first media timeout, when Walker and Young entered the game with 16:23 to play in the half.
“They’re terrific guys,” Holtmann said. “They’re terrific leaders. I thought both guys responded well and played a lot and played well in stretches, but we have to collectively do better. That’s on our leadership, our captains and myself.”
Walker hardly came out of the game after he entered. He did not sit during the remainder of the first half and played all but 109 seconds of the second half. The senior finished with a season-low six points, ending a streak of 11 consecutive games scoring in double figures, but he did dish out a career-high-tying seven assists.
Young had a so-so night and was seen leaving Mackey Arena with a walking boot on his right leg. His scoring struggles continued as he finished with six points on 3-of-7 shooting, but he pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. He entered the night averaging 23.5 minutes per game and played 24, while Walker played 35 minutes after averaging 31.6.
“That was just for us to be better leaders,” Young said. “For me I’ve got to play tougher. I’ve got to play at a higher level. The past two games I don’t feel like I was able to reach the level I can play at. Tonight was trying to ratchet that up.
“With every game we play, my goal is to keep getting better in that area. That’s the type of player I need to be: toughness, motor, all that good stuff.”