Ohio State Breaks Streak Minus Two Suspended Starters
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann felt he had no choice Tuesday, and so he did something despite deep personal reservations about how it would look.
Oh, and one more thing...Holtmann also suspended two starters 90 minutes before tip-off against Nebraska.
With light-hearted moments in short supply during a four-game losing streak, Holtmann could joke after an 80-68 victory about his choice of a pastel sport coat he's broken out only once each of the past two seasons.
"This was my rally coat," Holtmann said of the pink-ish blazer he's worn for OSU's Throwback Night victories at St. John Arena in December of 2018 and 2019. "I went in there this morning, and said, 'Lori. I think I have to wear the coat.' "
While Holtmann's wife has been a fan of his fashion daring in the past, he was more desirous of seeing the Buckeyes recapture their offensive success from an 11-1 start that's since hit the skids.
OSU hadn't scored 60 points even once during its four-game slide.
The breakout against Nebraska featured 55% field goal shooting and 46% 3-point shooting and came despite Holtmann's late-afternoon suspensions of starters Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad for "failure to meet program expectations."
"I knew the news was going to come out about a couple of our players," Holtmann said of the suspensions announced by OSU at 5 p.m. "I wanted our guys to play bold and free. Listen, for a guy who dresses pretty conservatively, this is as bold and free as I get."
Whatever opened the pressure valve, the Buckeyes rediscovered their mojo after a slow start that Andre Wesson ended with three consecutive 3-point field goals after a scoreless 3:21.
That pushed Ohio State (12-5, 2-4 Big Ten) in front and it never trailed, despite employing some strange lineups occasionally to cover minutes Washington and Muhammad typically play.
"We didn't find out until late," said C.J. Walker, whose 18 points led six OSU players in double figures. "We didnt know what was going on. It was a quick adjustment, a big adjustment, with Duane being a big scorer for us and Luther's defense. The way it played out, we were able to make shots so it was able to work itself out, but we most definitely missed them and can't wait for them to get back."
Ohio State probably won't succeed Saturday at Penn State with walk-on Danny Hummer or seldom-used Alonzo Gaffney getting first-half minutes, nor if it needs a pair of three-point field goals before halftime from Justin Ahrens, who averages 2.5 points per-game.
Holtmann said his two starters could be back Saturday, but even if they are he's unlikely to assist Penn State's scouting report at this point in the week.
"It'll be kind of day-to-day thing that we'll evaluate day to day," he said. "We'll keep that in house. They had a great attitude. They were supporting their teammates in the locker room. They had a great approach."
Washington received harsh criticism from Holtmann on Monday for a subpar performance Saturday at Indiana and Muhammad had made only 2-of-18 3-point attempts during OSU's losing streak.
Neither sat against Nebraska (7-10, 2-4) because of their recent play, however.
"It was related more to a specific off-the-floor incident," Holtmann said. "...The timing was not great. Who wants to hear bad news after you lost four in a row? But the timing did not factor into my decision one bit."
Nor did the consequences of perhaps losing to Nebraska.
"I'm not coaching for just one game," Holtmann said. "Ever. I'm not ever doing that. I'm not ever coaching just to win one game and put the best team on the floor for just one game. They're more important to me than that and it's more important to me than that. And if I ever get to the point where I coach just for one game, I'm getting out. See ya. Peace, out. Not doing it.
"For me, it's bigger than that. It's bigger than that. It's bigger than that for them. It's bigger than that for me."
Washington's and Muhammad's absences opened a spot in the lineup for freshman D.J. Carton and he provided one of his better all-around games.
Carton scored 13 points to go with five assists and two turnovers in a season-high 38 minutes.
Kaleb Wesson had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
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