Men's Basketball

Ohio State Postgame: Jake Diebler, Buckeye Players Talk Win vs Northwestern

COLUMBUS — Northwestern’s head coach Chris Collins, Ohio State acting head coach Jake Diebler, and a couple Buckeye players met with the media following the Buckeyes’ 95-87 win against Northwestern on Sunday evening.

Here are the highlights of what was said.

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins

+ “Ohio State came out the first five minutes of the game and told the story.” Liddell making five 3s was not a part of the game plan but he is a hell of a player. He challenged his team at halftime to play tougher and they got themselves back in the game with their offense. “But you can’t win a game in the Big Ten giving up 95 points.” They just couldn’t get the stops they needed.

+ Every time Northwestern made a run Ohio State found a way to get to the free throw line.

+ He felt good about their offensive game plan coming into the game.

+ On continuing to lose close games, Collins said they have to find a way to get it done and win games. “It’s really hard to win in the Big Ten.” He continues to be in awe of how well-coached the Big Ten is. He feels good about his team and thinks they can turn things around. “Today we were just climbing uphill all night long.” He hopes winning one game will get them on the right track.

+ On Liddell’s five straight 3s in the first five minutes, Collins said they weren’t communicating well on defense and one time they just lost him. “But give him credit and give his team credit.” Mistakes were made but the other team had something to do with that.

+ On Ohio State’s Malaki Branham, Collins said he was really impressed. “You kind of knew he had the talent.” He is a terrific player but the game against Nebraska for him showed how ready he was. “He has become that second guy now which makes them dangerous. He and E.J. Liddell go for 58 points and that’s hard to beat.”

Ohio State acting head coach Jake Diebler 

+ “Sure helps to have E.J. Liddell” Diebler says as he sits down for the press conference.

+ The leaders were going to have to be the ones to lead this. He credits the upperclassmen and felt that if anyone was built to withstand this adversity, it was them. He texted Liddell last night that he was going to need him to be on it, “and boy was he ever.”

+ He was very nervous and he gets nervous before every game. “This game has been so good to me.” Holtmann gave him a lot of confidence and helped keep him calm. The staff on the bench was connected and poised.

+ He has been lucky to work under many great coaches. His dad and “knowing he was here tonight was special to me.”

+ Liddell has earned this. He has a consistent work ethic and Liddell is a competitor who brings it everyday.

+ On the game routine changing, Diebler said the coaches tried to be in constant communication, mixing and matching responsibilities. It required them all to do more. Everyone deserves a ton of credit.

+ On Malaki Branham’s growth, Diebler said the game is slowing down for him and he is figuring out how to get more shots off. He is more physical and forceful and they believe in him. He has started to emerge as an offensive weapon. “His consistency in practice is setting him up for success like he had tonight.”

+ Chris Holtmann and Ryan Pedon were not at practice on Saturday. They didn’t know all of the details, precautions were taken Saturday and then they got word they wouldn’t be there for the game. A lot of phone calls and Zooms occurred Saturday night and Sunday morning.

+ “I thought I was a head coach when I played.” But this was the first time he has been a head coach. “You gotta talk a lot more than as an assistant, so excuse my voice but it was a lot of fun.” The hardest part was the whole overview as a head coach, thinking through substitutions, flow of the game, calling timeouts, communicating more in timeouts, there were a lot of things.” Holtmann told him to be himself and trust his instincts.

+ “Tonight was a lot of fun. I can’t state it enough.” The staff, culture, and upperclassmen made it happen. They were all confident in what they could do.

+ The players didn’t lose confidence in their offense. They knew it was only a matter of time before they would start playing better offensively. He credits the bench and three-point shooting for bringing a lot in this game.

+ They have a lot to clean up defensively. “We knew it was going to be a challenge on the defensive end of the ball.” They needed all of the 3s and free throws tonight.

+ On having a month off then playing two road games and now having the comfortability of playing at home, Diebler said that added another level. “It was certainly great to be home. That was great medicine for us.” The players are confident here and love playing here.

E.J. Liddell

+ On playing the way he did, Liddell said he felt more in shape and was trying to get back into the shape he was before the pause. “A lot of people were doubting me after two bad games” but Liddell kept his confidence up and had the same approach. He knew there would be ups and downs, he’s not a “perfect player.”

+ The team found out yesterday in practice that head coach Chris Holtmann tested positive. They confirmed it with another test. The huddles in-game were different but Diebler did a great job, he was sure Diebler was nervous before the game because he is nervous before every game. “It went well.”

+ On hitting six straight shots, Liddell said he was just getting open. He wasn’t asking for the ball from his teammates but he wanted the ball. “I always want the ball.”

+ On a career-high night, Liddell said “I was just doing what I normally do. I didn’t know I hit five [3s] in a row, that’s crazy.”

+ “I like winning basketball games. If someone drops 40 but loses the game it doesn’t mean much.”

+ Improving communication on defense is something the team wants to continue to work on.

+ “We definitely needed this one.” Liddell jokes that having school on Monday will bring them down a bit though.

+ He thinks Chris Holtmann and Ryan Pedon were standing up yelling at the TV coaching from home, being very intense.

Malaki Branham

+ On the three-point shooting, Branham said “we’ve been waiting for it.”

+ He feels good and wants to continue being a consistent player.

+ At Indiana his shots were going in and out but the coaches told him to continue being aggressive with his shots and that is what he has done.

Photo via Ohio State Hoops Twitter