Ohio State's Chris Holtmann talks losing streak, Brice Sensabaugh and more on radio show

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch

Less than 24 hours after a loss to Rutgers, Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann held his weekly radio show with the Buckeyes nursing a four-game losing streak.

The loss to the Scarlet Knights was more competitive but still amounted to an overtime loss, and Holtmann said the game was a step forward compared to the most recent games in the losing streak.

“I thought we had a better approach,” Holtmann said. “Different teams, and we were also fully healthy in the Rutgers game. I thought we had a good approach. Thought we had really good stretches of play in the Rutgers game, and good stretches of play defensively. Some stretches offensively where we’ve got to get a little better at making good paint decisions when we drive it and find the open man.”

The Buckeyes will head to Nebraska for a Wednesday game before returning home and hosting Iowa on Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip. First, though, Holtmann talked about the status of the team, the mounting pressures of the losing streak and more.

In case you couldn’t listen, here are the highlights.

Feeling the strain of the losing streak

Within the first few minutes of the show, Holtmann was asked by co-host and former player Ron Stokes about coaching through a losing streak and trying to not let the pressure affect his decisions.

“Most coaches and certainly it’s the case for me, I’m my harshest critic,” he said. “It’s just the reality of the way it works. There’s an internal voice inside you that can get overly critical and can sometimes be irrational. That’s where you need to balance that with people you trust and people you respect who can maybe see beyond the trees and allow you to have some perspective.

“You get into coaching because you love coaching, the competitive part of it, the kids. There’s no team in the Big Ten undefeated. There’s a long season ahead of us. We have to take some corrective measures. That’s the only focus right now is to try and do that as a group and see what happens. Results are results, but right now it’s about the progress we’re making in the areas we’ve identified.”

Holtmann said the Buckeyes will quickly get back to work in preparation for the Cornhuskers.

"We need to practice," he said. "Right now there’s too many things for us to continue to grow and improve in. We had some good moments of play but not enough. We’re not where we need to be. We’ve got to make improvements and that comes from practice."

Why did the Buckeyes change their starting lineup at Rutgers?

Holtmann brought leading scorer Brice Sensabaugh off the bench against the Scarlet Knights and moved Isaac Likekele and Felix Okpara back into the starting lineup. That group hadn’t seen any action together since the Texas Tech game in Maui.

“We have multiple guys that can start,” he said. “I like to keep those conversations between us and the team. Sometimes it’s a matchup situation. I didn’t start Felix one game because he picked up a quick foul in the Maryland game. Sometimes there’s things where you’re coaching kids and saying we need to be better at handling these situations in the midst of a game. Usually we like to keep those between us.”

Bruce Thornton dealing with wrist injury

The injury report is mostly clean, but Holtmann said freshman point guard Bruce Thornton is dealing with an injury to one of his wrists that the coach said he wouldn’t even describe as quite a sprain.

“Bruce is dealing with something that bothered him (Sunday) night,” he said. “The final play in regulation defensively he got matched with the big guy and the big guy really just went at him and reinjured it a little on the glass. He’s dealing with that but we’re otherwise pretty healthy.”

That includes Zed Key, who is playing with a heavy shoulder brace after spraining his left shoulder in the opening minutes of the Purdue game. He returned against Minnesota but didn’t practice leading into the game.

“I think that hurt us a little bit,” Holtmann said. “I wish I would not have played him quite as much as I did (against Minnesota). We had two days of preparing for their five-out scheme. They had not shown going under as much as they did all year. We didn’t adjust to it well. That hurt him not having those two days of practice. We game planned assuming he wasn’t going play, because as of that morning he wasn’t to. I probably should’ve kept his minutes somewhere in the mid-20s.

“He’s back and healthy. It bothers him a little bit.”

Jan 12, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes forward Brice Sensabaugh (10) makes a shot attempt while defended by Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Braeden Carrington (4) during the second half of the men’s NCAA division I basketball game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Value City Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Scheller-The Columbus Dispatch

No more all-access broadcasts

Ohio State’s game against Minnesota was an all-access broadcast where both Holtmann and Gophers coach Ben Johnson wore microphones and allowed cameras in their huddles and the locker room.

Holtmann was asked if it forced him to coach any differently and how he would feel about doing something like that again.

“I would not do it again,” Holtmann said.

No further comment was offered.

Brice Sensabaugh posts consecutive double-digit rebounding games

He came out of the starting lineup at Rutgers, but Sensabaugh still led the Buckeyes with 20 points and 11 rebounds. In the loss to Minnesota, he pulled down 10 rebounds.

“He’s often matched up with a guy around his size or bigger, but we’re also switching a lot the challenge for him is making sure he’s doing everything he needs to do to consistently block out when he’s in rotation,” Holtmann said. “That’s something as a team we need to be better with. He elevates really well. He’s got good hands that help him rebound.”

Sensabaugh also got a look at a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds, and Holtmann said he was fine with the shot rather than taking a timeout to draw something up.

“They did not have their best defender on Brice and I liked the matchup,” Holtmann said. “He was able to get into a rhythm 3 that we’ve seen him make a number of times. He had the guts to take it and confidence to take it. He’s got to continue to grow in a lot of areas.

“He can really get his shot off really almost against anybody because of his elevation and he’s got tremendous touch in the mid-range. After looking at his last play there, the only thing I would’ve preferred was to wait a couple more seconds. He’ll get better with that.”


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