COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann and a handful of Buckeye players met with the media immediately following the Buckeyes’ 70-45 win vs Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Minnesota’s head coach Ben Johnson also spoke with reporters and commented on Ohio State.
Here are the highlights of what was said.
+ Minnesota made the game challenging with mixing their defenses. In the second half they were able to make shots and that opened things up. The players made good adjustments.
+ Zed Key has to slow down in traffic. He can score over bigger guys but he can’t do it when he’s rushing things. Holtmann said he had to pull him aside because he really wanted him to hear that. He’s really effective when he slows down.
+ Defense and making open shots helped in the second half. Ryan Pedon had a good suggestion in the second half for attacking the zone that was effective, getting a bit more movement.
+ Jamari Wheeler had really good pop and bite defensively. He has to manage the aggressiveness with smarter play but he has to take some chances because that’s who he is. “He was really good tonight on a really good player.” He’s also a good talker, a really good talker. There are specific parts of their defense they have been stressing the last two weeks and he has been leading the way with that.
+ On responding after halftime, Holtmann said he didn’t look at it like that. He doesn’t really look at it like the tale of two halves. But the shotmaking was the difference and they attacked the zone with a bit more aggressiveness.
+ On E.J. Liddell, Holtmann said Minnesota really crowded him and that opened up Jamari Wheeler who was ready to shoot. Wheeler has to be quicker with his release. Liddell had to pass it a bit more in this game and he’s a willing passer but he was a bit sloppier with the ball. When teams give Wheeler the shot, “absolute green light.” He needs to take it and not hesitate. “We want him to take it.”
+ He wasn’t happy with the turnovers in the first half but was happy with their defense. He thought they played really well at times they just didn’t make some open shots and were sloppy offensively and careless with the ball and had no offensive rebounds. They hammered that at halftime. They had to make halftime adjustments based on the flow of the game.
+ “It needs to not be the E.J. Liddell show every night.” They can’t beat teams that way and they need other players involved.
+ He does not believe in benching players in the first half with two fouls. It’s just a philosophy he has.
+ Defensive improvements have to be player-led. This time of the year they have identified numerous times that the defense will limit them.
+ “Sluggish” is how he would describe the first half. “It was a better second-half than the first half, for sure.”
+ At halftime, he told Wheeler to shoot the ball when he passes it to him.
+ The coaches told him he had to get better on defense because teams were scoring too easy on him in the paint. He has been trying to improve on that every game. On the shot clock violation, they needed that. “I think we get better every game on defense.”
+ That was one of the worst first halves they have had all season. They knew they needed something in the second half. “We just weren’t ourselves.” They weren’t aggressive and were “lazy just standing there.”
+ They played good defense but were sloppy with the ball. They stayed focused on defense because they knew good defense would turn into offense.
+ The turnovers in the first half were because they weren’t being aggressive. “We weren’t playing our game.”
+ On the two quick fouls, Wheeler said he knew he couldn’t do that but he adjusted with the game and kept his head in the game. He still wanted to stay aggressive, but he adjusted. He reads the refs and found a way in the second half to do that without getting fouls by “just being me.” His experience also helped with responding to that.
+ He loves when teams dare him to take 3s. “If they’re going to give it to me, I’m going to take it all day.”
+ E.J. Liddell should be National Player of the Year. He does it on both ends which not a lot of players do. ‘He’s got my vote for player of the year.”
Minnesota’s Ben Johnson
+ He credits Ohio State for flipping the narrative on their intensity and details on both sides of the ball. But his team just didn’t bring it. They were quiet, didn’t have energy and were flat. Against a really good team, they knew they couldn’t do that.
+ When shots aren’t falling, it’s easy for it to impact defensively and they gave into that. They weren’t very mentally tough in this game. They let misses dictate their energy level.
+ On E.J. Liddell, Johnson said they tried to crowd him a bit more in this game. But in the second half he got through. They just wanted to make it tough for him and they did pretty well in the first half but he “did what good players do.”
+ They have to be mentally tougher for Penn State ahead.
+ On the zone defense forcing turnovers, Johnson said it was good and they rebounded the ball well. “We had a lot of pieces that were working.” The zone disrupted them, their coverages forced contested shots, but they didn’t do that in the second half.
+ On Jamari Wheeler’s second-half energy, Johnson said “he’s got some juice to him for sure, he’s a communicator.” They were able to get him in foul trouble in the fist half and that was an advantage for them, keeping him off the floor. They dared him to make 3s, and he made them. He has a winner’s mentality.
Photo via Ohio State Hoops.