Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann spent some time with reporters on Wednesday to answer questions about his team and to also look ahead to Thursday’s matchup at Penn State.
— “I think it’s our biggest challenge of the season in a lot of ways.” The last time against them was a tough one. “They’re really gifted. They’re disruptive defensively.” They are great on the glass and terrific offensively. They play extremely hard.
— “I think we’ll need to play one of our better games.”
— They aren’t looking ahead to Michigan. Penn State had them down eight late the last time and they have had Ohio State’s number the last few years. The Buckeyes know what this game means and the challenge ahead of them.
— They are not prepping one second for Michigan right now. “Our sole focus is Penn State.”
— PSU’s physicality and scoring at the guard and wing spot is a problem for the Ohio State defense. PSU was also missing a top scorer the last time out against OSU, so that’s another thing that will make this tough.
— Ohio State needs to be “more ball strong” this time out and make better decisions. Penn State plays defense very hard and they do things differently than what is traditionally done in the Big Ten, like how they attack ball screens.
— Guard Sam Sessons is giving PSU a good scorer off the bench but he is also a very good and active defender.
— Zed Key understands the challenges of consistently playing at this level. He has a real test this next game against one of the best offensive rebounders in the league in John Harrar.
— The focus this week has been on Penn State. There hasn’t been much talk about being focused because the guys understand how good Penn State has been.
— He’ll be interested to see what OSU’s defensive numbers are at the end of the year in league play. This is a very good offensive league, so he’s interested to see if the defense will rank better than it did last year.
— He has no idea why opposing offenses have so little time of possession against the Buckeyes. They don’t press. “Teams do try to attack us in transition,” but it’s a bit of an outlier from previous years.
— The team will be tested with their defensive rebounding against Penn State. It’s an area where OSU needs to get better. It’s a point of emphasis and always has been.
— Justin Ahrens has consistently been one of the team’s hardest workers. He had a great offseason. That work ethic has carried on. He is getting a lot of defensive attention right now “so he’s got to be able to respond to that the right away.” That usually means he won’t get as many clean looks. He needs to find some in transition and off of just general ball movement. He has the freedom to shoot contested threes as well. He has proven he deserves the freedom to shoot some of those.
— One of the challenges of coaching in the Big Ten is that you don’t get a chance to enjoy the wins “because you’re constantly moving on to what comes next.” You also don’t want to pass that kind of thinking on to your players because you want them to enjoy the wins, especially this year.
— He knows who they play over the final five games but it does no good to think about anybody other than the team coming up next.
— The best part of coaching is seeing your guys enjoy big moments. Watching Seth Towns enjoy being part of this team is really rewarding.
— He hasn’t heard much yet on how the Big Ten will determine the regular season conference champ. He could call and ask, “I just don’t want to do it right now” because there are more important things for this team at the moment.
— He’s not thought about when he might call and ask. Five games is a lot of games yet to play.
— What makes him happy as a coach? Seeing growth in your players, whether it’s on the floor or off it.