Ohio State's Chris Holtmann talks Seth Towns, Kyle Young and more on weekly radio show

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann yells to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in South Bend, Ind. Ohio State won 90-85. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Two days after Ohio State closed the non-conference portion of the schedule with a 77-70 win against UCLA as part of the CBS Sports Classic in Cleveland, coach Chris Holtmann participated in his weekly Monday radio show

In case you couldn’t listen in, here are the highlights.

The first game in more than a thousand days for Seth Towns was a cause for celebration

“Think about that now,” Holtmann said. “When you put that number into perspective, it’s mind-boggling. I just was extremely happy for the young man, that he was able to get back and has fought to get back on the floor. He knows he’s got a long ways to go in terms of his conditioning, his stamina, his ability to move and compete at this level athletically. I’m so happy for him. I don’t think you can say enough, how hard that is.”

More:Seth Towns makes 'euphoric' long-awaited debut for Ohio State in win against UCLA

The process now is trying to get back to the form that Towns showed while being named the 2018 Ivy League player of the year.

“He just was anxious to see how he’d respond and how his knee would respond,” Holtmann said. “I think he felt really good to be able to just get a minute or two. I don’t think it’s a situation where we’re going to throw him in and play him 15-20 minutes right away. There’s a process to this, to shaking off the rust after not playing after 2 ½ years. He’s got to continue to prove that he can help this team, which I believe that he can. What a great thing for the young man. Excited about what his last year and a half is going to be here as a Buckeye.”

Right now, Towns is doing more than senior Kyle Young at times in practice

“He’s practicing, but there are some days where he’s actually practicing in some ways more than Kyle is right now because he’s been battling some lower-leg injuries,” Holtmann said of Towns. “The knee sometimes is sore on consecutive days of practice. I’d say he’s doing most or all of everything in practice.”

The return of E.J. Liddell

Saturday’s game marked the return of E.J. Liddell after he missed two games due to mononucleosis. He fouled out with about seven minutes to play, but Holtmann said he was pleased to see the sophomore back on the court.

“More than anything I think he was just anxious to play, and sometimes when you’re anxious to play it can lead to a cheap foul or two there,” he said. “I thought the last one was a questionable one, but it was great having him back. He presents a low, mid-post option for us and he gives us another big body. We struggled rebounding the ball, and he’s a real factor and can really help that but it was great having him back.”

Kyle Young's physicality

Last year at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Young played against West Virginia before having his appendix removed later that night. This year, he took a shot to the jaw in the win against the Bruins.

His physicality will be important for the Buckeyes as they prepare for Rutgers and Northwestern this week.

“That facility has beat him up pretty good,” Holtmann said. “He’s had some interesting moments up there. Kyle has to be that for us. Kyle has to be a guy that’s in the mix and stirring it up and being a guy who brings tremendous energy and effort to how he plays. He got something to the chin, which caused him to bite his tongue and it got swollen a little bit. We need a really big week out of Kyle given the competition this week. We need Kyle to continue to do those things that he did on Saturday.”

Justice Sueing is getting opponents' attention

After breaking out with 19 points in the season opener, Cal transfer Justice Sueing has found harder going of late as teams have been more physical with him.

“As the game shave gotten more physical and the competition level has raised, I think what we’ve seen there is he’s struggled in some areas,” Holtmann said. “He’s also done some really good things for us. Still has done a really good job of attacking the paint. He’s got to continue to grow in playing with more force and a higher motor and we’ve got to continue to help him with that.

“He wants to get better. I don’t think there’s necessarily an easy solution to this. He’s got to continue to grow. He’s gotten a lot of attention. He’s a transfer who’s come in and been up near the top of the scouting report. That presents some challenges. I’m confident he’ll continue to improve.”

Purdue was his first taste of Big Ten play and provided an idea of what is to come.

“On every one of his drives, they sent multiple bodies,” Holtmann said. “They wouldn’t guard certain guys. They wouldn’t guard Musa (Jallow) at times on the perimeter, Kyle at times. They sent multiple bodies, so they would fly at his drive, as well as Duane (Washington)’s. And then they played him very physically. They bodied him up. When he got near the rim, they made sure to foul him and not give him an and-one.”

OSU women's COVID pause not affecting men

The Ohio State women’s basketball program is currently on a pause due to COVID-19. Holtmann said that doesn’t have any impact on the men’s program.

“Our medical staff’s done a great job making sure our guys are distancing ourselves,” he said. “We’ve done a good job, I think, a really good job with this. In a lot of ways our guys have done an exceptional job since the summer. We know it’s an inevitable part of what is going to be a part of this season.

“We don’t share equipment. We don’t share practice facilities. We don’t share anything along those lines, but there have been some precautions we’ve talked about. Some of our players are friends with their players. There has to be some understanding with your team.”

Holtmann shared his primary concerns about his team as Big Ten play resumes

“The area right now that we have to continue to grow in is our ability to defend better consistently and then finish plays on the glass,” he said. “That includes fouling less. We always realize with our group, defensively we have to continue to make strides.”

Freshman Gene Brown

Holtmann put freshman Gene Brown into the game during a crucial spell late, and he responded by hitting consecutive threes to key the comeback win against UCLA. When he put Brown in, Holtmann said one of his assistants checked with him about the decision.

“He was checking to make sure I was thinking squarely when I made the substitution,” Holtmann said. “It’s a tense moment to put him in. it’s a one-possession game and you’re throwing him into that situation. It’s always nice when your staff questions you in the midst of a game. We had a good laugh.

“The reality was, I felt like Duane was fatigued defensively and we needed some length on the perimeter. I think Gene really provides that. He’s a really, really smart young man.”