Ohio State's Kyle Young will miss Michigan State game with concussion
The final moments of Sunday’s home loss to No. 3 Michigan have made Thursday night’s game at resurgent Michigan State significantly harder for No. 4 Ohio State.
After knocking heads with a Michigan player in a 92-87 loss, Buckeyes senior forward Kyle Young will miss the game against the Spartans as he recovers from a concussion, coach Chris Holtmann said Wednesday.
“There’s no minimizing the hit to our depth and team,” Holtmann said. “It happened late in the game. I’m disappointed for him just because you’d like for him to be able to be in every game late in his career and certainly one that is against as quality a team that we’re playing.”
The injury deals a significant blow to an already undersized Ohio State team that has relied on the 6-8 Young to use his energy and athleticism to both create something out of nothing and take advantage of mismatches in the post. In 23 games this season, all but one of them starts, Young is averaging a career-high 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds while playing 26.6 minutes per game.
He had done so while battling leg injuries that have hampered him throughout his Ohio State career. This season, they have frequently kept him out of practices as the coaches have tried to manage keeping him healthy with the need to get better. After a physical game at Penn State the previous Thursday, Holtmann said he didn’t feel Young had quite his usual energy level in the game against the Wolverines.
“It could’ve bene a by-product of he played a heavy load in the Penn State game prior,” the coach said. “You miss his activity in terms of pursuing rebounds and his ability to score in the low post and defend a (Joey) Hauser or a perimeter player and switch.”
It wasn’t until Monday that the Buckeyes learned they might be without Young, Holtmann said, and the preparations for playing without him have been complicated by injuries to other players. Fourth-year junior guard/wing Musa Jallow missed the Michigan game with a sprained left ankle suffered in last Thursday’s win at Penn State, and his status for the Michigan State game was still undetermined as of Wednesday. Graduate transfer Seth Towns, too, has been limited lately as he continues to try to put two years’ worth of knee injuries behind him.
Sophomore center Ibrahima Diallo, who has missed the past 18 games with a knee sprain and at 6-10 is the tallest player on the roster, just returned to practice last week and could potentially play against the Spartans, but he’s been a lightly used player during his first two seasons and is unlikely to assume any sort of significant role.
Young’s injury could mean more minutes for freshman center Zed Key, who has averaged 5.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in 12.4 minutes per game. He’s been the primary post backup to Young and E.J. Liddell, but it also could mean fifth-year senior CJ Walker returns to the starting lineup and slides Justice Sueing to his more natural spot at power forward.
“We don’t have a guy on our roster that plays quite like Kyle and brings his multi-dimensional rebounding and physicality and energy,” Holtmann said. “Obviously it’s a concern. That’s what we’ve looked at the last couple of days.”
It adds another level of difficulty to an already tough stretch to close the season for an Ohio State team chasing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After Thursday’s game at the Breslin Center, a place where the Buckeyes haven’t won since William Buford’s game-winning shot to clinch a share of the 2012 Big Ten title, they will close the regular season with games against No. 9 Iowa and No. 5 Illinois.
In climbing to No. 4 in the polls, the Buckeyes have weathered some early-season adversity as well as the continual specter of COVID-19 threatening to shut the season down. Those experiences might help as they attempt to navigate another bump in the road against a team that has won four of its last six and is fighting for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
“These final couple weeks will test us because of the quality of competition,” Holtmann said. “It’ll test our togetherness, our maturity. Honestly, I welcome it. Part of me would probably prefer not (to have such a stretch), but there’s also a part of me as a coach that wants to embrace it and knows it can help us if we handle it the right way.”