COLUMBUS — Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann met with the media on Tuesday to preview Wednesday night’s game at Duke. Holtmann answered question about his team and what he is expecting to see from the Blue Devils. Also speaking with reporters were freshman point guard Bruce Thornton and senior shooting guard Sean McNeil. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below. The video is also below.
- Quick turnaround from getting back from Maui. Duke is a terrific program with talent that is well coached. They are young, but there is some familiarity with playing them last year. There are new faces though. This will be their first true road environment. They are looking forward to it.
- Maui was important for the older guys to perform well. Justice Sueing needs to continue performing well. They have challenged Zed Key to be more consistent. Sean McNeil played well and showed them something sooner than maybe the coaches thought they would get it.
- Zed Key had an exceptional game last year against Duke. He took advantage of the attention going to EJ Liddell. What they are looking for from him is consistency on both ends. His ball screen coverage needs to continue to get better. They are challenging him with that.
- They can take nothing from last year’s game to this year. Both teams are different than they were. Duke has a new coaching staff.
- Duke’s offensive rebounding is a challenge. “They’ve got great size across the board. As big as any team we’ll play all year.” It’s not necessarily at any one position, it’s just across the board. They lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. To say it’s a concern is an understatement. “We’re going to get a great shot from them.”
- It was good to see Bruce Thornton play like they’ve seen him practice. He was relaxed. His value is in so many areas. That’s what allows him to play so much. He’s an asset defensively. He can run the team. He doesn’t turn the ball over much, which will be a challenge tomorrow night.
- If you just take a snapshot of the team, you’re going to miss a lot of what Ice Likekele does. He generally guards the best scorer. He rebounds. He defends in the post. He’s a good passer for his size. People get enamored with offense, but his value is pretty special because he can do a lot of different things.
- Cameron Indoor Stadium is going to be incredible and they are looking to see how the team responds to the environment. They won’t be perfect. This will be good learning from them moving forward. Duke is going to be angry due to a recent loss and losing to OSU last year. His wife told him it’s going to be a white out for the first time in years. She told him that right before bed, so that was great.
- With the Big Ten/ACC Challenge ending, OSU is now in talks with several marquee programs for some home and homes. That just didn’t happen this year for a variety of reasons. “I apologize to the fans.” They want to do this every year. They may do two home-and-homes next year.
- Every freshman progresses differently but Bruce Thornton played really well in those three games in Maui.
- Eugene Brown is still out.
- Felix Okpara has been able to give them some size when Zed Key has been out and he needs to continue doing that as he gets more experience.
- They still need to get better in defensive scramble situations. “We’re certainly a work in progress as a team, as most teams are, but defensively we have a long way to go.” The performance in Maui was just okay in spots. It needs to grow
- He grew up a fan of the SEC, but playing at Duke is special because everybody knows Duke. It’s a top five place to play.
- What concerns them about Duke? Duke is a great offensive rebounding team. They get a lot of second-chance points and wide-open threes. They need to box out.
- What went well for him in Maui? He’s more confident. His first few games he was getting a feel for things. But when the competition got better he stepped his game up.
- They are in a good space right now with their ball movement and sharing the ball. They don’t care who scores the most points.
- Playing in Maui was like being back in AAU ball where the competition was much more even. He got confidence early on that he can play at this level against anybody in the country. It was a big boost.
- He couldn’t imagine sitting and not playing for two years like Justice Sueing had to do at Ohio State. Sueing has been a great big brother to him at OSU. It was great to see him play the way he did in the final game in Maui. The team was probably happier than Sueing was.
- You need to lock back in after giving up an offensive rebound. You don’t want those to happen, but they will, so you have to get focused again to make sure you get the next defensive rebound. They found out against San Diego State that those second-chance points can decide the game.
- It was a difficult adjustment to go to Maui and then play there, then to come back home and get ready to play Duke. Yesterday was a good practice. They’ve been studying. They have worked really hard in defensive rebounding since they’ve been back. If they can do that well, they have a good chance of winning on Wednesday.
- He has worked a lot on putting the ball on the floor because he knows teams are just going to try to eliminate his catch-and-shoot opportunities.
- He has played a game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Kansas, which was the toughest environment he’s ever played in until tomorrow night. He will let his teammates know what to expect.
- The young guys on the team now have a feel for difficult situations. “I think they’re ready for it.” They don’t play like your typical freshmen.
- How does the preparation change when you are traveling so much? It took a few more days than they would have liked to get back on their feet after that trip to Hawaii. They were forced to get rest and their sleep was tracked.