Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo Discuss Buckeyes’ Loss To Spartans

COLUMBUS — Following Ohio State’s 62-41 loss to Michigan State on Sunday, the head coaches of both squads spoke with reporters. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann discussed his team’s shooting — or lack thereof, while MSU coach Tom Izzo talked about his team and also discussed the difficulties that Ohio State is going through at the moment and the need for patience. Also answering some questions was OSU point guard captain Bruce Thornton. Videos of each interview session are below.

Tom Izzo

  • Today was a rock fight in the first half. Nobody was shooting well. Chris Holtmann made a great move by surprising Izzo with a different lineup. It’s not as easy “as you people would think it is” in terms of dealing with a team full of transfers and freshmen.
  • “But I do have to give us a little credit” because MSU stuck with their defensive game plan.
  • “We were so three-point happy that we looked like an AAU team out there.” That’s not who we are and that’s not who we should be.
  • MSU did a great job defending Zed Key.
  • “It wasn’t the prettiest game but we’ll take the win.”
  • Coaching isn’t as fun as it used to be because of the changes going on.
  • What’s fair for OSU fans to expect? The hard part is that there are good, young players here. The end of the year, the coaches are always wondering what their rosters are going to look like. If you win, you did the right thing. If you lose, it looks like you did the wrong thing. The last three years at Michigan State, MSU hasn’t lived up to expectations either. COVID has had an impact everywhere. You have guys who are 23 playing against 18-year olds.
  • Izzo watched Ryan Day lose to Michigan and he thought “the poor coach was gonna be hung,” then you watch them respond against Georgia in a game they should have won.
  • The last three years have been difficult with COVID and the rule changes. “I would tell fans ‘be a little patient.'” Holtmann isn’t his best friend and he’s not sticking up for his brother, he’s just sticking up for a coach. He understands. He built a monster and has to “feed the damn thing.” The COVID stuff will eventually settle but the transfer stuff is only going to get worse.
  • This was really the first game for OSU where they let down at the end.
  • Holtmann has had two great recruiting classes and he’ll get them together.
  • Sometimes you lose games with freshman point guards, but it pays off with patience.
  • What he liked about OSU starting three freshmen is that they’re talented players. The young guys that OSU has are men. “I’m sure your football coach would die to have a couple of those at linebacker.” “I think Okpara is going to be a damn good player.”

Chris Holtmann

  • Give Michigan State credit. “I thought their defense was stifling today.” The OSU offense could be blamed for sure, but give the Spartans credit. Michigan State is playing at a much slower pace this year and OSU’s patience wasn’t there in the first half. They have a lot to learn from this game.
  • Is the team feeling the stress and noise from the outside? “How could they not.” It’s part of playing in the public eye at a major university. They do a good job to some degree of blocking it out. The answer is to throw yourself into your work and focus on your work.
  • The Buckeyes couldn’t get into the paint. “I should have clearly had a better plan for our offensive attack.” The game last year was a much faster-paced game. Then missing some open shots early led to playing frustrated and tight offensively.
  • Are you still searching for what this team’s offensive identity is? The OSU two-point shooting has not been good this year. They’re not playing off of two feet enough. They’re playing in too many crowds. They do want to shoot more threes, but today was too many. They’ll make some of those in the next game, but today was too many. Should he play better shooters more? “I don’t know. I need to look at it.”
  • Justice Sueing is a solid shooter in practice. With this team, if the shooting was better everywhere else, they wouldn’t need him to shoot as many threes. He’s had some wide open looks. He’s a better shooter than what he’s shooting now. He needs to keep taking rhythm shots on this team.
  • Roddy Gayle got the start. He’d like to play Gayle and Sean McNeil together. Would give the team more ball-handling and shooting. “I felt like I should have played him more last game.” Holtmann likes the mix of offense and defense with him and the other freshmen as well.
  • Ohio State is playing faster than they ever have offensively, but it’s the second-worst they’ve been in Holtmann’s six years in efficiency.
  • Is Roddy Gayle going to be starting moving forward? He needs to impact the team with his defense. He needs to continue to work on his ball-handling. Out of that will come some good offensive moments.
  • They’ve got to get Brice Sensabaugh going. They have to get him back into a better rhythm.
  • There may be some tentativeness when the Buckeyes are able to get a deficit down to a couple of possessions. But they do need to get better looks when they are close like that. They’re not where they need to be, and that’s on him. They also have some habits that they need to break.
  • What is an attainable achievement for this team now that would enable you to feel like you have good momentum? It’s hard. The general response is growth. Sharing and moving the ball. There were good defensive possessions in this game, but they need 40 sustained minutes on defense. They had about 30 minutes in this game.
  • Is Zed Key healthy enough to keep playing? The only way they’d shut it down would be with another significant injury. Right now it’s strong enough. Sometimes there is pain when he extends it or it gets hit. He’s fighting through it.

Bruce Thornton

  • What wasn’t going right tonight? Hard to beat a top team in the Big Ten if you don’t make shots. MSU also got some easy buckets in transition. MSU is also a great defensive team. Props to their coaching staff for having Michigan State ready.
  • They shot so many threes because the ball wasn’t maybe moving as much, but they can hit those shots. When you miss them, it looks like bad basketball. But they can generally hit those. “I believe in the next game we will make those shots.”
  • What’s it like having three freshmen in the starting lineup? At this point, they’re not freshmen any more. They have already been through the fire. It doesn’t matter who starts. They’re just trying to get the win.
  • It is very frustrating losing. It’s not a good feeling. They still have time to put some good games together.
  • What was MSU taking away from the OSU offense? “It was very difficult.” MSU stays in the gaps, so it was hard to drive the lane, and they also protect the rim well. OSU’s bad shooting played into MSU’s game plan.
  • Is the noise outside the program impacting the team? You just have to do your best to be mature and block out the noise. It can really mess you up if you focus on the negative comments, especially on social media.

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