COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann, senior forward Jameson Battle, and sophomore point guard Bruce Thornton spoke with the media after the Buckeyes’ 84-74 Big Ten home opener win against Minnesota on Sunday night. Minnesota’s head coach Ben Johnson also spoke on the Buckeyes and what problems they posed for his team.
You can read the highlights of the press conferences below.
+ It was a hard-fought Big Ten win. It was a good win for this team. They survived the runs and he is proud of that. They have to close the half better and need to have a better second half.
+ On the start to the game, Holtmann said they played really well in the early stretches, they had good pace, and were relying on their defense in the first half. But he saw a really good start and then poise down the stretch making plays.
+ On the challenge of containing Dawson Garcia, Holtmann said they had to make adjustments as he got going in the second half. Garcia is an older kid who has played a lot, he has versatility, didn’t shoot well from 3 but he’s capable of doing that too.
+ On the final two minutes of the first half, Holtmann said it might have been the lineup, he was trying to get Thornton to the bench with one foul by halftime. They missed a good drive and didn’t finish, and that ended up being a four-point play.
+ On the 3 point shots down the stretch, Holtmann said it stayed off Minnesota’s run. Players are playing with high confidence and they were sharing the ball well. The offense was good to see but the offense wasn’t the issue… they have to be better at taking away some of the opponent’s strikes.
+ They need to get better at guarding a player like Garcia. He is a really good player but they will see a lot more of that in the Big Ten moving forward.
+ Scotty Middleton gave them great minutes in this game. He played his role and kept them level.
+ There were also teaching opportunities with what happened in the second half if they can identify those and learn from them.
+ “It’s Big Ten play. Every game is going to be a dog fight. When you think you’re up, you’re not.”
+ He was shooting confident tonight because he felt like his teammates believed in him.
+ Last year he didn’t have the experience to lead the team through certain experiences but now he’s locked in and can help guide the team through the adversity.
+ On hitting his first couple of shots and getting off to a hot start against his former team, Battle said playing against the team that gave him an opportunity was emotional but he had to go play another game. His teammates trusted him and had his back the whole game.
+ On the dunk, Battle said he saw Thornton had it and then he was gone because he knew Thornton would give it to him. “You don’t get moments like that often.”
+ “We’re going to do whatever it takes to win.” Everyone contributes their own aspect to this team. The team is connected on and off the court.
+ Chris Holtmann preaches defense. They know teams that win and make runs in the tournament, they are built on defense. The offense will be there, but they have to be connected as a unit to be effective on defense. They are trending in the right direction
+ They put themselves in a hole in the state of the game, they expended their energy trying to get out of it. The fight was there in the second half, but it wasn’t manageable.
+ “They were the aggressor and we weren’t even close. They punched us first and we just took it. They had momentum on both sides of the ball for the first 20 minutes.”
+ They knew they had to try and play through Dawson Garcia. They had to let him get in his spots and get comfortable and he did.
+ On Garcia facing a former teammate Jameson Battle and it being a personal matchup, Johnson said Garcia wants to win. “He puts a lot into it and you see the emotion out there.”
+ On Battle’s performance, Johnson said he made shots. They knew he was capable of doing that and a 3 from him early on really got Ohio State going.
+ Ohio State is really really good defensively. They have the physicality, they are athletic and long, and they are a physical team defensively. That wears on teams and front court players. “Defensively, their team definitely took a step in my opinion.”
Photo via Ohio State Department of Athletics.