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Ohio State's Chris Holtmann says CJ Walker further along than Jimmy Sotos on radio show

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann talks to an official during the second half of the men's basketball game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Value City Arena in Columbus on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Purdue won 67-65.

One day after a 67-65 home loss to Purdue, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann held his weekly radio show Wednesday at noon. The show was moved from its traditional Monday slot due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

If you couldn’t listen, here are the highlights.

CJ Walker further along than Jimmy Sotos

The Buckeyes have been without CJ Walker for four games and backup Jimmy Sotos for three. Walker has been recovering from torn ligaments in his right hand and Sotos injured his right shoulder in the first game without Walker.

“They’re making progress, and good progress,” Holtmann said. “I would say at this point CJ may be a little ahead of Jimmy in terms of his overall progress. He’s had some extra medical attention here and they’ve determined that the ligaments are healing and he’s making progress. Jimmy, his shoulder is coming around but it’s a little bit longer perhaps where he may be out. Hopefully we can get those guys back in the rotation.”

When that happens, it’ll force some changes to the rotation.

Ohio State men's basketball:Buckeyes different, 'not better' with Justice Sueing in place of CJ Walker

“We’ve obviously played really well in this stretch without those guys and it’s been a little different,” he said. “At the same time we saw last night Purdue was able to take us out of some things in the half court with their pressure and wear down some of our guards. We need another guard in the rotation and CJ provides the ball handling and ability to initiate the offense and he helps us defensively.”

As soon as he’s back, Walker will slot back into a significant spot in the rotation.

“We’ll have to take a look at some of the things we’ve done really well in this stretch with a bigger lineup at the perimeter,” Holtmann said, noting the presence of Justice Sueing at the point in Walker’s absence. “We’ll do some of that some (still). It seems like forever since we’ve had CJ but it’s been just a few weeks. I’m excited to get him back when we can.”

Justice Sueing, Meechie Johnson stepping in

Sueing, Johnson and Justin Ahrens have all had prominent roles in the absence of Walker and Sotos.

“Doing a pretty good job of it, being able to initiate some things offensively,” Holtmann said. “justice and Justin receiving more consistent minutes has been really good for us at times, but Meechie coming in has really been a Godsend for us in a lot of ways. He gave us a great lift against Illinois, a tremendous lift at home against Northwestern. (Tuesday) night was a great example of what this league’s like in terms of each game is different and you’re playing one of the better physical teams in the country. It was great to get Meechie out there. He’s responded to every moment with a great attitude and great approach.”

Duane Washington shouldering a load

Holtmann credited the junior guard for continuing to mature and develop while playing in a league as difficult as the Big Ten.

“I think his maturation has been really, really impressive,” Holtmann said. “He’s now playing in the best basketball league in the county, the best defensive league in the country and his efficiency numbers have went up. Last night (against Purdue), he wore down a little bit. He gave the ball away on a couple occasions. I probably should’ve taken him out for a spell.

“Illinois, they basically face-guarded him the whole game and that opened up opportunities for other guys. He’s clearly a guy that’s grown. He’s gotten better. We’re going to need him to be consistently efficiency and grow in his defensive details and effort to finish this season playing well.”

Justice Sueing’s second half

Sueing had eight points against Purdue but only two of them came after halftime.

Ohio State men's basketball:In point guard debut, Justice Sueing shines in win against Northwestern

“I don’t know if it was anything specifically (Purdue) did,” Holtmann said. “There weren’t as many opportunities for him in the second half. He’s probably got to look at ways he can attack and be more aggressive than he was because obviously we need that form him. I thought overall, probably most disappointing that we just had too many defensive breakdowns last night and fouled too much at the rim and got attacked too much off the bounce. Justice, Justin, Duane, our perimeter guys have to be better in that area.”

Ohio State preparing for Wisconsin

The Buckeyes go to Wisconsin on Saturday.

“There’s a reason they’re a top-10 team in the country,” Holtmann said. “They’ve got great balance. Much has been made of their overall age. They’re not just old, they’re really good players and they play really well there at Madison.”

Buckeyes get a day off

Ohio State is not practicing Wednesday.

“We’ve needed a day off,” Holtmann said. “It’s been a really, really heavy stretch of play. Physically, we needed the day off after last night’s game. This was going to be our bye week and we had an interruption to our game with Penn State due to their COVID issues. Purdue had a quicker turnaround than we did. You’ve got to be willing to do that right now.”

NCAA Tournament to Indianapolis

The entire 2021 NCAA Tournament, assuming it can be played, will take place in Indiana with most games taking place in Indianapolis.

“I think it’s really exciting,” Holtmann said. “Indianapolis is a great city to host. I know it’s all done to mitigate risk and hopefully we get to pull that type of a season off collectively. Hopefully we get to have an NCAA Tournament. I believe we will, but I think it’s a great idea to keep it all in one location.”

Among the arenas that will host games: Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Holtmann coached before taking the Ohio State job.

“I haven’t given it a ton of thought, to be honest with you, but it’s an incredible venue,” Holtmann said. “I’m a Buckeye through and through right now but obviously it’s an incredible basketball venue. It’s going to be an incredible place to play NCAA Tournament games for sure.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy