Chris Holtmann updates Musa Jallow's status, looks to Michigan State on radio show

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann cheers on his team during Sunday's NCAA Division I Big Ten conference basketball game against the Michigan Wolverines at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on February 21, 2021.

Not even 24 hours removed from a thrilling, 92-87 loss to No. 3 Michigan, Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann held his weekly radio show Monday.

In case you couldn’t listen, here were the highlights:

Musa Jallow’s status unknown for Michigan State

After scoring a season-high nine points at Penn State, junior wing Musa Jallow missed the Michigan game with an ankle injury suffered against the Nittany Lions. It’s unclear if he will be available against the Spartans.

“I’m hopeful (it’s just one game) but at this point it’s very much day-to-day,” Holtmann said. “We need every healthy body we can get down the stretch. This has been a year of injuries, more than any other year we’ve had together. We’ll see. He turned it pretty bad in that game and to his credit he kept playing. It ballooned up pretty bad. We’ll see here. It’s kind of day-to-day.”

Ohio State men's basketball:Musa Jallow, Justin Ahrens stayed patient in earning roles for Ohio State basketball

His defensive versatility would’ve been called upon against the Wolverines, Holtmann said.

“I thought he was great in that game (against Penn State),” he said. “He was active. He cut. He moved, rebounded and then brought us some defensive versatility that we need. I certainly went into yesterday’s game thinking he could help us with some of the older wings we knew we were going to play against. He had a great performance at Penn State. Overall, that was a gutsy win for our guys given all the attention that yesterday’s game was given.”

As a team, Ohio State has a number of guys dealing with injuries. The players are off today and Holtmann said he has a meeting with the training staff later in the day to assess the state of the roster.

“They need to get their bodies rested, recovered,” Holtmann said. “We need to take an inventory of where we are health-wise. We’ll prepare for practice along those lines. I don’t think we’ll have everybody healthy enough to practice tomorrow, but the ones that will, will need to get better. Whoever we have that is healthy and ready to go, we’ll really need them to prepare well.”

CJ Walker, not Justin Ahrens, to start second half

Senior CJ Walker came off the bench to start the game, but he started the second half in place of Justin Ahrens.

“It was all centered around I thought we needed better ball-screen coverage defensively and in order for us to have that we needed more ball pressure and he’s our best guard, he and Meechie (Johnson) are our best guards at applying the necessary pressure in ball-screen situations,” Holtmann said. “Right now Duane (Washington) or Justice (Sueing) do not play enough ball-screen pressure to play the kind of coverages we need. CJ has to be consistent with it and when he is, he really helps our defense.”

Ohio State men's basketball:CJ Walker ignites crucial run, Buckeyes shake off nemesis Penn State in road win

Ahrens was scoreless, missing two three-point attempts, in the game.

“I thought he was fine,” Holtmann said. “There’s going to be times we’re going to need to run some stuff to free him up because of how much attention he’s getting right now. I’d like a little more balance across the board offensively, but we had really ridiculous offensive numbers against a pretty elite defensive team so I don’t take issues with our offense.”

Duane Washington, E.J. Liddell fill it up

Although the Buckeyes didn’t get much in the way of balanced scoring, Holtmann had no issues with what his leading scorers gave him.

“I thought they were aggressive and attack-minded,” he said. “I thought we were able to exploit some matchups with E.J. Certainly they got us with the big fella (Hunter Dickinson), but I certainly thought we were able to exploit E.J.’s versatility against him. We needed a little bit more balance across the board, but those guys were really efficient and aggressive.”

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That also included Walker, who had 15 points.

“I think it’s probably a confidence thing as much as anything,” Holtmann said. “My college coach used to say confidence comes from competence. He’s in a very similar rhythm, maybe a better rhythm than he was at this point last year. We need CJ to be that and at the same time we need him to really lead the point of attack on our defense. That’s probably as critical as anything.”

Duane Washington poked in the eye

Play was stopped during the second half when Michigan’s Eli Brooks swiped at the ball and poked Washington in the eye. The officials called timeout and Holtmann had a few words with both the officials and, it seemed, Michigan coach Juwan Howard.

“In his situation, Brooks poked him in the eye,” Holtmann said. “I took issue a little bit with how much hand checking and body checking that was going on and made that point when the official took that timeout, that this was a byproduct of some of the hand checking that was going on. It was unintentional by Brooks. He got poked pretty good. Duane has never been one to not be a little dramatic, but in that case it was real. He was really poked in the eye. He was feeling it and good thing the official called a timeout.”

Michigan State promises quick turnaround

Last week, Ohio State played an 8 p.m. game at Penn State on Thursday night before hosting Michigan for a 1 p.m. tip Sunday. This week will be similar, with the Buckeyes tipping off at Michigan State on Thursday at 9 p.m. before returning home to host Iowa at 4 p.m. Sunday.

“Not only are you turning around and playing an elite (team) team, it’s on a short turnaround,” Holtmann said. “(Michigan State) will be our sole focus, but we are also looking at how are we best preparing for the next game. I always quiz our guys when we get back about when they got to sleep. An 8 or 9 tip, they usually get to bed around 4 or 5. I thought our guys played with the necessary energy (against Michigan), we just had a few too many loose possessions on offense and defense.”

Ohio State basketball:Ohio State shows little mercy, extends Michigan State misery in decisive win

As for playing the Spartans, Holtmann listed a few keys.

“Great urgency in the first 6-7 seconds of the clock is going to be critical,” he said. “Great urgency to sprint back and build walls and also not foul them. They’re playing now with a little bit better of an offensive lineup because Gabe Brown is back for them. Offensively they’re a little bit different than we played them last time. The biggest thing is being able to execute defensively in the first six, even, eight seconds of the clock. Get them to play against a set defense.”

Players keeping circles tight

At the end of the day, coaches are able to go home to their families while the players go back to their dorms or apartments. Holtmann credited his players for keeping tight social circles and making sacrifices in order to have a season.

“They have to keep a tight circle that’s their teammates and coaches,” Holtmann said. “They have to limit their interaction with everyone else. Outside of their teammates and coaches, their contact is extremely limited. They’ve done an unbelievable job with it. They’re not doing what typical college kids (do). You might’ve went to a party or two at college. They don’t have that. They’re not doing those kind of things. Hopefully there will be more social interaction next year when this thing gets behind us.”