Ohio State's Chris Holtmann updates Kyle Young's status on weekly radio show
Sunday did not go as hoped for the Ohio State men’s basketball team.
After ending a two-game losing streak with a Thursday home win against Michigan State, the Buckeyes honored seven players and six managers during a pregame senior day ceremony before hosting rival Michigan at Value City Arena for the final game of the regular season. With a packed crowd and the Wolverines minus star center Hunter Dickinson, Ohio State held a 37-30 halftime lead but was outscored 45-32 from there to take a 75-69 loss.
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The defeat locked the Buckeyes up as the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten tournament, where they will play Thursday’s final game of the day, and sent them into the postseason having lost three of their last four games to fall from Big Ten regular-season title contention. Along the way, Kyle Young, Zed Key and Meechie Johnson all suffered injuries that have their statuses in question for Thursday.
In case you couldn’t listen to Holtmann’s show, here are the highlights.
No status updates on Kyle Young, Zed Key and Meechie Johnson
It’s unclear if any of the three injured players will be available for Thursday night’s postseason opener against either Minnesota or Penn State.
“We’ll have a greater indication on Zed and Meechie and Kyle on Thursday,” Holtmann said.
Young was able to participate in the pregame ceremony but did not watch the game from the bench as he remains in concussion protocol.
“Kyle was really hoping to at least get out in front and be out there for senior day because he wasn’t sure if he was going to with the noise and everything, but I know he was glad to be out there,” Holtmann said.
Ohio State is off Monday, and Holtmann said Johnson seems most likely to be available Thursday.
“I think he’ll be fine,” he said. “It didn’t look like it was a significant ankle injury and it didn’t have much swelling. I would think with a couple days’ rest he should be OK.”
Michigan made “tougher plays” to open second half
It took less than five minutes for Michigan to erase Ohio State’s seven-point halftime lead.
“They made tougher plays to start the second half, bottom line,” Holtmann said. “They were down seven and played hungrier and made tougher plays and that’s on us. They got loose in transition and we had a couple costly turnovers. You know there are ebbs and flows of the game but I thought that five-minute segment was critical.
“(Sunday) was obviously a tough loss. We struggled a little bit offensively in the second half and defensively most of the game. We knew a lot was on the line.”
Hunter Dickinson’s absence helps Michigan spread out Buckeyes
After he spent the night throwing up, Dickinson was unavailable for the Wolverines. His absence forced Michigan to play a little bit smaller, and that allowed the Wolverines to spread the Ohio State defense and get to the rim.
“They went a little smaller and spread us out and had a little bit more versatile pieces,” Holtmann said. “That was a little bit different than we had game planned for the prior two days. They played with some smaller bodies and spread us out, for sure.”
Ohio State was without Kyle Young, and Holtmann said the team’s depth doesn’t allow the Buckeyes to play much small-ball basketball.
“We just don’t have that flexibility right now with Kyle, Justice (Sueing), Seth (Towns) out,” Holtmann said. “We can’t go small. We would like to be able to, and we have been able to in the past because you can play EJ as a small-ball five and be dynamic but you need another forward with him. We don’t have another wing-forward behind Gene that has the length and defensive versatility. We really can’t go small for large stretches of a game right now.
“We would have been able to do more of that if you have Justice or even Seth, who isn’t necessarily great at guarding the ball but he can keep a guy in front and you can switch with him.”
Ohio State struggling to contain opposing guards
During the final eight days of the regular season, the Buckeyes watched as Maryland’s Fatts Russell and Eric Ayala, Nebraska’s Alonzo Verge and Bryce McGowens and then Michigan’s DeVante’ Jones and Eli Brooks carved up their perimeter defense.
It remains a primary concern for Holtmann as the postseason gets underway.
“In all those games, those have gotten going early and it’s given them more confidence,” Holtmann said. “We have not guarded the ball well. We have not had a guard that’s dug in and guarded the ball well. Collectively our ball screen defense has not been what it’s needed to be. We’ve got to play that better and coach that better as much as anything. That’s going to be really, really important for us as we move into (the postseason) and play talented guards.”
Michigan’s defense throws new wrinkle at Buckeyes
Without Dickinson, Michigan made a defensive adjustment that caused issues for Joey Brunk and E.J. Liddell in particular.
“(Brunk) struggled with some of their baseline trapping,” Holtmann said. “We had not seen that this year. They made an adjustment from game one where they came low on the baseline and forced a baseline turn. We struggled with it a little bit. Joey and E.J., those were the two main guys they were coming and trapping.”
After scoring 18 points against Michigan State, Brunk finished with 8 against the Wolverines and two turnovers. He will be called upon more as Key and Young’s statuses are unknown and will remain in the rotation based on his recent performances.
“He can score in the low box, for sure,” Holtmann said. “He played a little bit in all four of our games versus our potential opponents, but obviously given Zed’s ankle issues and Kyle being out, he’s going to need to be ready to play significant minutes and he’s produced. He did some good things defensively with some physical, vertical wall-ups that were good. We certainly don’t beat Michigan State as banged up as we are without his production and play.”
Holtmann said Brunk could run a 5:45 mile despite his 6-11, 245-pound frame.
Holtmann not in hurry to name Ryan Pedon’s replacement
The Buckeyes will lose assistant coach Ryan Pedon at the end of this season after he was named head coach at Illinois State. Holtmann said he’s already received “a ton of interest” in the job but that he won’t dig into potential replacement options until whenever the Buckeyes conclude their season.
“I’ve given it some thought but it’s something we’ll look at after the season,” Holtmann said. “I’m not sure what I’ll do with the position. Jake (Diebler) will eventually assume Ryan’s responsibilities and we’ll figure out where to go with hiring an assistant. He’ll take a lot of Ryan’s offensive responsibilities. Tony (Skinn) will continue to be in his role of scouting. Then we’ll figure out what to do next with the other areas. That’ll wait until after the season.
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“I’m not in a hurry to make any of those decisions. Ryan’s staying through the end of the season and we’ll figure it out from there.”
Pedon is the second Holtmann assistant to land a head coaching job since he arrived at Ohio State, joining Mike Schrage at Elon.
“You’re going to lose assistant coaches,” he said. “It’s what they dream of. (Pedon) has had opportunities. They really pursued him hard, but he really wanted this job. It’s considered one of the best jobs in a really good mid-major league. It pays well. It’s a tremendous arena. It’s a good place to live. The staff will be taken care of, and most importantly, they pursued him. It’s a great, great opportunity for him. This won’t be the last one we’ll lose as long as we’re successful.”
Justin Ahrens hits multiple 3-pointers
For the first time in a month, senior Justin Ahrens finished with more than one 3-pointer in a game as he went 4 for 8 against the Wolverines.
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“I thought he shot the ball really well,” Holtmann said. “I through our guys did a good job screening for him and getting him open in some actions. I’ve not lost my confidence in his ability to make open shots. He doesn’t get many of them in our league. Justin can bring some other things. He’s got to rebound the ball better for us. He’s got to connect our defense better.”
Can Ohio State use last year as blueprint for Big Ten tournament?
Last season, Ohio State entered the postseason with a four-game losing streak and reached the title game of the conference tournament before losing to Illinois in overtime. This year, Ohio State has lost three of four entering the postseason.
“We were a little bit healthier last year going into the tournament because we were able to have Kyle Young at that point,” Holtmann said. “We had basically our main starting group. That would be the biggest key.”
Despite that, Holtmann said the Buckeyes are looking at Thursday’s game as a chance to turn things around.
“Everybody understands it’s a new season,” he said. “We were healthier at that time. Everybody looks at that and says OK, it’s a new season and even though we are a little banged up we just went and won three games last year. It’s certainly something our guys are looking forward to. It’s a great city and great environment we’re looking forward to.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Chris Holtmann updates status of Kyle Young, more on radio show