Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann talks Seth Towns, CJ Walker and more on radio show

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann gestures to his team during the first half of the game at Northwestern.

Two days after Ohio State suffered a 71-70 loss at Northwestern, men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann hosted his weekly Monday radio show.

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

More:Ohio State hoops notebook: Duane Washington Jr. describes his game-winning shot attempt

Seth Towns continues to make his way back from last January’s knee surgery

“I thought Seth gave us a really nice offensive lift,” Holtmann said of Towns, who came off the bench to score 11 points in the loss to the Wildcats.

“He’s got a great feel for the game. Obviously we need his shooting. A couple games removed from him seeing his first action, it was great to see what he did. He’s got to get better in some defensive details and a couple fouls that were critical, but some of that is rust. He’s got get used to playing again in a lot of ways, playing on both ends, but offensively he really gave us a nice lift.

“He’s got the ability to get in the long post and play in the long-post area to turn and square and face up and make plays. What’s most important for our team is going to be his shooting, the need for him to be guarded. His size is what we need, his size and his shooting.”

Holtmann said Towns is 100% cleared by the medical staff but that his game isn’t where it was when he last played after missing the last two seasons.

“He feels some soreness in his knee and some continual soreness that comes with that type of injury,” Holtmann said. “In terms of his heath, he’s getting back to 100%. He was fully cleared by our medical people. I would say he would probably put the percentages at 50-70% with his game in terms of his ability to shake off the rust and get into a rhythm.”

Kyle Young has scored in double figures in each of the last two games

“I thought he was really efficient over both shoulders the other day,” Holtmann said of the senior forward/center. “Our guys did a good job finding him. He did a really good job posting. I think he’s played really well these last couple games. We really need that for our team to have success. All of our good players, and he’s certainly one of them, need to play well in this league.”

Duane Washington Jr. got the look the Buckeyes wanted for the go-ahead basket at Northwestern, but the layup didn’t fall

Holtmann said the Buckeyes are learning who they want to lean on in clutch situations both offensively and defensively.

“I think it’ll evolve as the year goes on,” he said. “We very much got what we wanted the other day, he just missed the layup and the runner but it was exactly what we wanted. I do think it could vary and change. There’s a couple guys we’ll play through late, and you have those in your mind. They’re guys that honestly we’ve played through late this year already.”

Buckeyes appeared tired against Northwestern

Holtmann was asked about E.J. Liddell’s energy level as he has returned from mononucleosis, but it led the coach to speak more about the team as a whole.

“I think our whole group was a little fatigued the other day and I noticed more guys fatigued,” he said. “Was it the quicker turnaround? Was it travel? Was it the quick practicing a little bit later on Christmas Eve? Then the quick turnaround with the game time? Or was it just the nature of the way the game was played and all of the actions Northwestern makes you guard? I need to do a better job giving guys a little bit more rest because we got fatigued.”

Are teams baiting the Buckeyes to commit fouls?

Senior guard CJ Walker fouled Northwestern’s Pete Nance just before the half at midcourt, and he hit two free throws to tie the game at 34.

Holtmann took a listener-submitted question asking if the Wildcats or other teams try to bait the Buckeyes into committing fouls.

“That was a poor play on our part,” Holtmann said. “We have to be better. We just have to be better in that situation, and that’s on me.”

Where the Buckeyes need C.J. Walker to be

Holtmann spoke more on Walker’s season to this point.

“I think he’s got to continue to work on some of the offensive efficiency,” the coach said. ,

“He typically plays really, really smart, and I didn’t think he played as smart as he normally does the other day. He’s done some really, really good things for us.

“The unique thing that is different for him is we forget sometimes the space that Kaleb created with the threat of his shooting, and really Andre for that matter. That space and that threat of those guys, what it did is it created pull-up opportunities for CJ, right in his wheelhouse. That’s not necessarily the strength of this team, with a shooting 5, so we’ll have to continue to adjust as he will.”

Musa Jallow has been 'really important' for the team

“I think the reality is in a year like this you’re going to need everybody to be ready because you could have guys out for whatever reasons. Musa’s been ready and provided a great lift when he’s been in. a lot of it’s been on the glass, but also a lot of it has been defensively he’s been really good.

“He hasn’t been quite as good the last couple games,” Holtmann said of the junior wing, “but collectively throughout the season he’s been really good for us.”

Duane Washington Jr. continues to work on being a more efficient player

“I would go back to some of it has been adjusting to live without Kaleb (Wesson)’s pick and pop game,” Holtmann said. “Some of it’s been his decision-making that we’ve got to continue to help him with,”  the coach said about the junior guard. 

“Certainly (Duane’s facing) added attention. His conditioning has to continue to improve. He’s not as fit as he needs to be with his workload. His shot selection, which comes back to decision making, all has to improve. I thought he was really good particularly in the second half of the Rutgers game. He’s got to continue to grow in those areas, watch film and be better.”

Justice Sueing is adjusting to Big Ten play

Cal transfer Justice Sueing, too, is in the process of adjusting to how teams are guarding him in the Big Ten.

“I thought he did a good job in some areas the other day,” Holtmann said. “He’s got to run the floor a little harder. Teams are coming for his ball and he’s got too high of a dribble right now so he’s got to play more in an offensive stance. I thought in some ways it was a sign of some really good things for him. He’s a tremendous, tremendous kid. He’s going to continue to grow. It may not come right away, but he’s going to continue to grow and adjust to Big Ten play.”

What was said at halftime

The halftime talk at Northwestern focused on taking better care of the ball in addition to doing a better job of not fouling, Holtmann said.

Dropping the trey

The Buckeyes are shooting a league-worst 22.2% from three in Big Ten play.

“We’ve got to shoot it better,” Holtmann said. “Some of them I’m happy with the quality of shot and in other cases I’m not. It’s a mixed bag, really. We have missed some good ones, some rhythm ones that are open, but we do need to shoot it better collectively, for sure.”

Don't call the Buckeyes 'undersized'

Along those lines, the Buckeyes have had success on the glass this season. Just don’t call them undersized, apparently.

“Our offensive rebounding has really kept us in a lot of games, and we’ve done a better job on the defensive glass,” Holtmann said. “For a team that everybody loves to call undersized, I would suggest that we’re undersized maybe at the quote-unquote 5 spot but we’ve got good positional length at the other spots. We’ll see if we can continue to do that and combine that with better offensive efficiency.”

Jimmy Sotos' work ethic

After the Rutgers game, Jimmy Sotos put in some extra work inside the arena. He was running extra sprints and putting up shots in an empty Value City Arena.

“It’s good to see for Jimmy,” Holtmann said. “This is really a bonus year for Jimmy. We didn’t think we were going to play him. To his credit, he’s continued to work and get better and stay ready. He’s got to continue to do that. It’s a credit to him, doing that and putting in time on his own right now. Excited about his contribution. There’s no question in my mind we’re going to need him throughout this Big Ten season.”

And finally...

At Northwestern, the Buckeyes had to take to-go boxes of food to their rooms because the hotel didn’t allow them to eat together.

The Buckeyes host the Cornhuskers on Wednesday afternoon.

“They had several guys sitting out on their transfer year last year,” Holtmann said. “They’ve added some immediate eligibility transfers, one from Pitt, a dynamic, athletic guard. They have a 6-8 point guard. They’ve got good length. Their talent level is different than last year. They’ve had some really competitive games.”

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