With Northwestern next, Buckeyes still working to put layoff behind them

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

The day after a game is typically one for recovery.

Friday was not that for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.

On Thursday evening, the No. 13 Buckeyes absorbed their first blowout loss of the season. In their second game back after a 22-day COVID-19 pause, Ohio State’s highly ranked offense ran into an Indiana wall, built block-by-block by Trayce Jackson-Davis. By the end, the Buckeyes looked gassed, making just one second-half shot from inside the 3-point arc and finishing with 10 turnovers after halftime in a 16-point loss.

So Friday, the Buckeyes were right back at it, continuing their efforts to shake off the effects of the layoff and move on from the first decisive loss of the year.

“We were all in here trying to get our conditioning up, get our wind up to get back to where we were playing prior to the break,” senior captain Justin Ahrens said. “We got up and down. It was a lot about us getting our wind.”

Ahrens was quick to point out that the loss was more about what the Buckeyes didn’t do and less about the layoff that ended last Sunday at Nebraska. Immediately following the loss, coach Chris Holtmann said his biggest dilemma was trying to get the Buckeyes back to their pre-pause fitness levels without overdoing it in the middle of a season.

More than half the team endured 10-day layoffs in which they weren’t able to do any physical fitness that elevated their heart rates. Kyle Young missed the Nebraska game with a non-COVID illness and was only able to play 17 minutes, finishing with 3 points and two rebounds.

Since having to cancel three games, Ahrens is only 3 for 11 (27.3%) from 3-point range, Zed Key has scored nine total points and E.J. Liddell is 5 for 29 (17.2%) from the field.

Justin Ahrens and the Ohio State men's basketball team spent Friday conditioning as opposed to resting up after a 67-51 loss to Indiana.

The hope is that Sunday’s home game with Northwestern will be the one where the Buckeyes finally put fatigue behind them.

“When you get back to practice everybody’s so locked in on trying to get back to shape that you’re going so hard, and your body is sore,” Ahrens said. “It definitely is a challenge. I feel like we’re almost back to where we were before the break.”

Defensively, Ohio State’s collective numbers weren’t that bad. Indiana finished with an efficiency rating of 99.1 points per 100 possessions, which is actually the fifth-best single-game mark for the Buckeyes this season and its lowest total in a loss. Only Wisconsin, Bowling Green, Duke and Penn State have had worse-rated offensive performances against Ohio State.

The offense, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired.

“I just think we’ve got to get some guys rested,” Holtmann said after the loss. “Bottom line is, tonight our offense really failed us. I thought defensively we didn’t play as smart as we needed to all the time, but tonight — which it’s really not been all year — but tonight was really about our lack of offensive performance.”

Going forward, Ahrens said the hope is that questions about both fatigue and a lack of offense end with the Northwestern game.

“A lot of it was us just not playing aggressive enough and setting the tone enough in the second half (against Indiana),” he said. “Obviously in the first half we were right there with them … but in the second half when it got later in the half, I think fatigue kind of kicked in, and guys got wore out and we weren’t getting to as many 50-50 balls and weren’t getting as many offensive rebounds.”



Northwestern at Ohio State

Time: 5:30 p.m. Sunday


Radio: 97.1 FM