COLUMBUS — Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann met with reporters on Tuesday to talk about his team — including the return of Kaleb Wesson from suspension — as well as preview Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament game against Indiana (12:30 p.m., BTN). Also speaking with reporters were point guard CJ Jackson and post player Kyle Young. Here are the highlights.
+ Indiana is playing really, really well and have had moments for large sections of the season where they have been very good.
+ “Morgan has played like a man possessed. He’s played like a senior who was an all-league performer.”
+ Smith, Green, and Langford have all played well. Romeo Langford is an exceptional talent. Phinisee has given them great play at the point much of the time.
+ Kaleb Wesson is back.
+ The last time they played Indiana, he was very impressed with their ability to be active defensively in the half court. “They’re really connected defensively.”
+ It’s good to have Kaleb Wesson back. He did some good things at Indiana the last time, but they will need more out of him this time.
+ Holtmann jokingly said he’s keeping Kaleb Wesson off of caffeine for the time being because he can be an emotional player. He wants Kaleb to be Kaleb and won’t hold him back. He needs to find a way to impact the game on both ends. It’s important to not have a false sense that everything is fine now that Kaleb is back. “We’ve got to play well.”
+ He thinks guys maybe tried to do too much without Kaleb, but they weren’t a great offensive team with him on the court either. The three losses were also a product of playing three good defenses.
+ Holtmann kept Wesson with the team so that his return would be more seamless. He worked on the scout team and has been doing a workout in the morning, then practice, then some post-practice conditioning. They have scaled back on that now with a game on Thursday. There’s no way to replicate game speed, so Holtmann thinks wind may be a concern. He will have to play through some fatigue as well.
+ If players are ever angry at a teammate for getting suspended, you talk it out. Those conversations need to be honest and real. Holtmann’s expectation is that that has happened with this latest suspension.
+ Regarding a win-or-go-home situation, they are only focused on doing their best to play Indiana and to be at their best. They are focused on small segments and not looking at a grand scale of what this game means. The unspoken is always there, however.
+ These situations can be stressful for kids, so you try to minimize it and make sure they know it’s a game and they have made a choice to be here. But they also need to understand that part of the fun is working through this stuff together and getting rewarded for it. This team has probably been pressing a bit, “and that happens when you struggle.”
+ Everybody gets what this game means for the NCAA Tournament, but his job is to get the team to be prepared for this one game. “The other stuff, honestly, we don’t have a lot of long-standing conversations about it because I think it’s just a distraction.”
+ Twice in the last couple of years against Indiana the games could have been decided by a flip of the coin. He doesn’t know why the games have been so close.
+ Holtmann hopes there is some positive carryover from the Wisconsin ending. It would have been hard to lose three-consecutive games by double figures.
+ They have continued to do skill work with Luther Muhammad. He’s pressed at times this season.
+ They will watch and see how well Kaleb does on offense early to monitor his integration into the offense. He will also be needed on defense, so his conditioning will be watched as well.
+ It’s always nice to have one of your teammates back and he is excited to have Kaleb Wesson back.
+ There isn’t any resentment towards Kaleb Wesson. The season doesn’t allow for that. You make adjustments and move forward.
+ His injured shoulder hurts but it is what it is. It won’t get any worse, so he’ll continue to fight and his teammates will pick him up. The team is more important than his injury. He feels it a little bit during the flow of the game, but you “lose yourself” and only feel it when it gets hit.
+ OSU and Indiana are two teams that compete hard against each other. “We’re pretty evenly matched in the way we run our offense and defense.” “I’m not sure if they’re a rival or not.”
+ Even though Indiana had a rough stretch in conference play, they were only a few plays away from turning things around. They are talented and they compete for the entire game.
+ Games like this are why you come here. You do it to put yourself in a position to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
+ They learned the first time against Indiana that the Hoosiers are more physical than he expected.
+ The Wisconsin experience has some positives, “but at the end of the day we didn’t win the game, so…” You can describe it as momentum, but there are things to learn from it.
+ There is no let down from the Wisconsin game. A loss is a loss and you have to continue to focus on Thursday because the regular season is over and this is a new season for everybody.
+ He has moved past the miss at the end against Wisconsin because he has to be ready to take it again in the next game.
+ It’s good to have him back because everybody knows how big of a piece he is to this team.
+ Kaleb Wesson can definitely be the difference in them making a run, but they still have to perform and work for it.
+ Every game is important, but this game is important because they are on the bubble and they have to win.
+ The Wisconsin game provided a lot of good things and in the late stretch especially. It’s good to see how well they can play when they play together.
+ Young’s leg injury is tough because of the soreness. He tries not to think about it while he is playing. He rehabs as much as possible but won’t be back to 100% until he has some time off. He feels limited, but he will still give everything else he has.
+ Having experience as a team in the NCAA Tournament helps them be ready for the Big Ten Tournament. It’s always important to have experience playing in big games. His ankle “is pretty much back.” “I’m good. I’ll be alright.”
+ That last run against Wisconsin was fun. The fans were into it. You lose yourself in those games, but he was pretty sore after it.