Kyle Young's absence felt strongly Ohio State in March Madness loss to Oral Roberts
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No one was offering excuses in the wake of Ohio State’s bracket-busting upset loss to Oral Roberts on Friday, least of all OSU coach Chris Holtmann.
For large stretches, No. 15 seed Oral Roberts simply outplayed the second-seeded Buckeyes, continually beating Ohio State to loose balls, to second-chance opportunities and eventually to victory.
But it likewise was not difficult to imagine the impact senior forward Kyle Young could have made for OSU against a nimble, athletic team that spread the floor and leaned on a pair of stars for big plays. Young missed his third consecutive game after suffering a concussion in a Big Ten tournament win over Purdue the previous Friday.
“I’ve said this: This team misses Kyle more than any team that I’ve been a part of,” Holtmann said after OSU’s 75-72 loss in Mackey Arena. “It certainly missed his versatility today at the (center position).
“We knew there were going to be some matchup problems with how they play, but there’s a reason Kyle didn’t play today. He wasn’t ready to play. He wanted to play, but he wasn’t ready or cleared to play.”
When – or if – Young might have been able to return in the tournament will never be known. His future plans are unclear as well: the NCAA is giving players the option of returning next year, and Ohio State will recruit the senior for a fifth go-round.
Against Oral Roberts, Young’s absence manifested itself in more ways than his hustle, his 8.6 points or his 5.5 rebounds per game. His skill set seems ideal for an opponent such as ORU, which allowed Ohio State to attempt 20 layups or dunks, plus another 23 shots on pull-up or mid-range jumpers. The Buckeyes made 43.5% of them (10 for 23).
Without Young, Oral Roberts was able to provide extra help on players such as Duane Washington Jr., E.J. Liddell and CJ Walker, making drives the basket more difficult.
“The biggest thing was they were not guarding a couple of our guys and really crowding things and making driving lanes and post-ups difficult,” Holtmann said. “Then we missed some open looks that we’ve made.”
Liddell finished with a team-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Washington had 18 points but, after making his first four shots, would go 3 for 17 the rest of the way.
Ohio State also dealt with injuries besides Young’s.
One game removed from a season-high 22 points in a loss to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament final last Sunday, Justice Sueing scored 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting. Seth Towns, who had played 70 minutes in the past three games, could only go for 12 in this one. Neither looked like themselves as Towns has dealt with a knee injury and Sueing a groin injury.
“Seth was struggling all week with his knee and his back,” Holtmann said. “Justice has been battling his injury and I give him a lot of credit. There’s no question he’s battled at an incredible rate with his groin injury. Today he looked a little hobbled.”
Those two, plus an invisible offensive game from Musa Jallow, who in 32 minutes attempted three shots and made one, helped make life even harder on a night when Washington’s shot wasn’t falling. Adding a healthy Young to the mix certainly would have lessened the demands on the likes of Sueing, Towns and Jallow.
“We’re hoping Kyle gets back healthy in a timely fashion,” Holtmann said. “I know he’s hurting for his teammates. I know he would’ve loved to be out there, but certainly it was the right decision to hold him out.”