During his press conference after the Ohio State basketball recruiting class of 2018 signed their letters of intent, Chris Holtmann had some strong words regarding guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington.
“Duane is a prolific shooter,” Holtmann said about Washington. “He’s a very capable shooter. He’s high level when it comes to that. He can make plays with the ball in his hands, and he can facilitate for others.”
Holtmann also had something to add on Muhammad. “Luther’s versatility defensively is terrific. I really believe he can guard three positions for sure. [Muhammad and Washington] complement each other very well I think, because we obviously anticipate playing the two of them together quite a bit."
The two guards were at the epicenter of the action on Wednesday night, when Ohio State traveled the 90 minutes down I-71 and defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats 64-56.
Of course, this was not an ordinary game. Cincinnati was opening the remodeled Fifth Third Arena, and the arena was at full capacity for what was the first matchup between these schools on a campus since 1920.
Cincinnati, despite losing three of their top four scorers from a year ago, still came into the season with lofty expectations, with AAC coaches predicting the Bearcats to finish second in the conference.
In addition, Ohio State came in to the game as 5.5 point underdogs, according to Vegas Insider.
It makes it all the more impressive then to learn that Muhammad and Washington combined for 48 minutes with just one turnover.
Muhammad was Ohio State's most highly touted 2018 recruit, and he didn't disappoint in his debut, recording 11 points and playing phenomenal tight defense.
One play, however, showed just the kind of competitor that Muhammad is: after Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland hit a three-pointer in Muhammad's face, Muhammad raced down to the other end and made one himself. After the play, Muhammad said to Cumberland, "right back at you," and gave Cumberland a staredown. Muhammad earned a technical foul for his efforts.
Chris Holtmann, although not pleased with the technical, praised Muhammad's work overall. "He was great. Luther is a tremendous competitor. That's why we recruited him, because he brings a competitive spirit."
Washington, while not scoring (he had just three points in 19 minutes) still played a very effective game, recording four rebounds, playing solid defense, and most importantly not turning the ball over.
Also, he too seems to have quite the competitive spirit, encouraging former Buckeyes star Evan Turner to put some respect on his name.
Coming into the season, the expectations for Ohio State basketball were fairly low. If their freshman guards continue to grow, however, we may have another surprise on our hands.