Ohio State will be without two of its key guards for its next game.
Sophomore guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. have been suspended for Tuesday night's game against Nebraska for failure to meet program standards and expectations.
Due to their absences, point guards CJ Walker and DJ Carton are expected to start together in the backcourt for the Buckeyes versus the Cornhuskers. With Musa Jallow still out after having preseason ankle surgery, Ohio State will have almost nonexistent depth in its backcourt. No other scholarship player on the roster primarily plays a guard, meaning someone like sophomore forward Justin Ahrens could be forced to play minutes at shooting guard. Danny Hummer, a walk-on from Upper Arlington, will be the only true guard eligible to play off the bench.
The suspensions of Muhammad and Washington further casts a shadow over a once-promising season.
Ohio State has lost four straight games to West Virginia, Wisconsin, Maryland and Indiana, sinking from a high of No. 2 in the Associated Press top-25 poll on Dec. 23 to No. 21 in the latest rankings released on Monday. Prior to the suspensions, Tuesday's game versus the Cornhuskers was viewed as an opportunity to get back on track. Instead, Ohio State might be in for another struggle against a team widely projected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten.
Washington's suspension comes just three days after Holtmann kept him on the bench for all but seven minutes of the Buckeyes' 66-54 loss to Indiana. He recorded two points and one rebounds in the defeat.
“I just did not feel he was ready to play,” Holtmann said at Monday's press conference. “I felt like he was not prepared to play in a tough environment on the road. I just did not feel like his mind was where it needed to be, and it was pretty evident even in the short minutes that he played.”
Without Washington, Ohio State will have to make up for his three-level scoring, though he has had issues with his efficiency lately. Washington, who has started 11 games and missed two in mid-December due to a rib injury, averages 10.7 points per game, the second-most on the team. He has hit 43.1 percent of his shots, including 43.9 percent of his 3-pointers.
Muhammad, arguably the team's best perimeter defender, had started every game this season next to Walker in the backcourt except Saturday's matchup with Indiana. He averages 6.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.4 rebounds in 24 minutes per game, while hitting 37.2 percent of his shots, including 34.6 percent of his 3-pointers.
Not having Washington and Muhammad will force Walker and Carton to play together in the backcourt extensively on Tuesday and possibly beyond.
“I just think CJ, in general, is probably best right now at running our team,” Holtmann said on Monday. “I think they play well off of each other and it alleviates some of the ball-handling for a freshman that I think hopefully will bring DJ up a little bit. That's why we play them together.”
As of Tuesday, Ohio State will have had players suspended in all three seasons of the Holtmann era. Kam Williams and Kaleb Wesson both served suspensions in 2017-18, and Wesson was suspended indefinitely and sat out three games in 2018-19.
Ohio State, without Muhammad and Washington, will tip off Tuesday's game against Nebraska at 6:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.