Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann talks CJ Walker's thumb, Minnesota loss on radio show

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann has a word with one of his players in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Minnesota, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Minneapolis.

One day after Ohio State’s 77-60 loss at Minnesota, men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann hosted his weekly radio show.

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

Senior guard CJ Walker will undergo further testing today on his injured right thumb

“In defense of the young man, he really is struggling with a hand injury on his right hand,” Holtmann said. “It’s bothering him, and it’s limited him for sure. He’s gotta battle through this injury and he’s going through some testing today to get some more information on it and then he’s got to continue to make some improvements in those areas.”

Although it’s not the only culprit, the injury is something Holtmann has referenced on multiple occasions during the past few weeks as Walker’s production has waned.

“He’s got to make better paint decisions,” Holtmann said. “We need him to play better. He will, and we have to help him do that as coaches. He’s important for our team. He has provided high-level assists. He’s done a great job taking care of the ball and defensively he’s been pretty solid. We need him to provide some offense. He’s turned down a couple threes he’s got to take. He’s got to continue to read when he gets to the paint because the size and physicality in this league, the officials have not given him some of those calls in the paint he maybe got in the non-conference. When we have struggled, he’s a big part of what we do. While he may not be our leading scorer, he’s going to do so much for our team.”

Ohio State will host Penn State on Wednesday night 

The Nittany Lions had a Saturday game postponed, the Big Ten’s first conference postponement of the season, but the game is on for Value City Arena as of Monday afternoon.

“All things point towards the game still being on, as far as we know,” Holtmann said. “I believe their COVID issues are not going to prevent the game from happening as far as what we know right now. I expect the game to be played.”

Holtmann said Ohio State’s medical staff immediately contacted Penn State when the Wisconsin postponement was announced and learned the Nittany Lions “might have had one or two positives.”

Ibrahima Diallo is dealing with an MCL sprain

The sophomore center suffered the sprain the day before the Nebraska game, and his return date is uncertain.

“Ibrahima, I’m not sure how long it will be until he can return to workouts and practices,” Holtmann said. “We’ll see. What’ unique is Ibrahima’s size at times provides us a really good look at what we’re going to see. He’s done a great job on the scout team when he’s been healthy.”

Abel Porter will eventually return to the program

The graduate transfer from Utah State, whose career ended with a diagnosis of a heart condition during the fall, hasn’t been around the team recently but will return to the program before long.

“We’ve allowed him to go and spend some time with his family during the holidays and because of that he’s been apart from us, which I think has been hard,” Holtmann said.

“He needed to go home. I think spending time back home was important. I think what we saw with him was a young man that was going to play 20-plus minutes. He had started for a Utah State team that went to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments. He was going to give us depth in ball handling and a really high IQ and toughness. It was really hard for him when his career ended. For him, as soon as he goes through the protocols of COVID testing we’ll get Abel back around the team as he finishes this academic year and moves on.”

Ohio State allowed Minnesota to score on its first seven possessions of the game, digging a significant early hole

“I thought outside of our start, we put some really quality minutes together in that first half,” Holtmann said. “Now it helped, Duane making some shots, but I thought we had some really good play in that first half. Took the lead and they had a six-point halftime lead but it was certainly manageable. I did not like our start, and that’s my fault. I did not like some of our possessions once the game got to about 8-10. We have to have better possessions there.”

Of the Minnesota's 28 free throws, Liam Robbins and Marcus Carr shot 27 of them

“We fouled Robbins too much,” Holtmann said. “That’s my fault. Our guys have to get better with their technique. We just fouled him too much. Carr, I didn’t really think got to the line in the guts of the game too much.”

Playing without the fans

Although the Buckeyes haven’t had success there in a few years, Holtmann said he enjoys being inside Williams Arena even if it was odd without fans.

“Everything’s different (this year),” he said. “You can hear everything and communication’s better. It’s a great basketball arena. There are a lot of great basketball arenas in the Big Ten where the acoustics and the way it’s built, it’s really vertical so when fans are there and with the elevated floor it usually is a challenge to communicate. It was not a challenge last night. It’s a great venue with or without fans, just the way it’s built. It’s older, but they’ve done a really good job keeping it newer and updated.”

Duane Washington Jr.'s offensive effort

Duane Washington Jr. led the Buckeyes with 21 points in the loss to the Golden Gophers

“Defensively, it was not one of his better nights but offensively he did a great job of making shots,” Holtmann said. “Especially early, he took what the defense gave him and did a really nice job of making shots.”

Freshman Gene Brown had two buckets against Minnesota off of quick cuts to the basket

“Gene’s done a great job for us, but he went from being the best player on his team and he wasn’t necessarily a high-volume player and how he’s got to figure out how can he impact the game?” Holtmann said. “He took one three last night that was probably not a good shot but he did a good job cutting and moving off the ball.”

Seth Towns' missed shots

The Harvard graduate transfer missed a couple of shots against the Golden Gophers after a pair of 11-point games.

“I think his shot preparation can get better,” Holtmann said. “Granted, you’re talking about a young man who’s not been in a full practice for too long. We’ve got to get him better with that. He had two really clean looks that Seth is going to make most nights, or they’re going to be closer. (Sunday) night he wasn’t moving great. He’s really important for our team because he provides a forward who does have the ability to step out and make shots. He’s got to shoot the ball with confidence. The two shots he took were good ones, and both of them were wide open.”

And finally...

The Buckeyes have looked into potentially leaving day-of-game if the game tips off late in the evening, Holtmann said.

ajardy@dispatch.com

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