Jake Diebler, Jack Owens and Mike Netti were faced with a challenge on Thursday.
After Chris Holtmann was ejected in the first half, Ohio State's assistant coaches had to take the reins on the sideline and try to lead the Buckeyes back from a 16-point halftime deficit against a Big Ten opponent without their head coach on the floor.
They nearly did it. Ohio State cut the Wisconsin lead to two points in the final minute and outscored the Badgers 33-22 in the second half before eventually losing the contest by five.
Owens said Friday during a Zoom interview session that Holtmann was simply standing up for Ohio State, and that the Buckeyes never lost faith in their ability to mount a comeback. Owens also questioned the speed with which Holtmann was hit with two technicals amid his heated exchange with the officials.
“First of all, Coach is fighting for our team. You go back and watch, I don’t know why the techs were given so fast in that period of time," Owens said. "That is something I guess they have to address or why that happened the way it did. But for our team, we just wanted to stay the course. We knew we could get back into the game. We wanted to give ourselves a chance by putting ourselves in position to have a chance to win the game in the end or tie it or send it to overtime. And that’s what we did, we wanted to keep the guys, keep them together and stay the course and just continue to fight."
It didn't work out for the Buckeyes, but Owens said he was pleased with some of the effort he saw from Ohio State in the second half. He said the Buckeyes tried to match the fire that Holtmann showed in the opening frame.
"It wasn’t pretty by any means but we were able to get some stops and get some baskets and get some momentum there, and we had our chance. You have an opportunity to go to the free-throw line to cut it to one, but no matter what it was a one- or two-possession game at the end," Owens said. "We wish we could’ve done a little bit better job taking care of the basketball when we had those opportunities in transition and those sorts of things. But those are the things that we have to continue to get better at, and we just want to continue to fight like Coach was fighting for the team.”
Having now dropped eight of its past nine games, Ohio State goes on the road this weekend to take on Michigan in Ann Arbor at 1 p.m. Sunday. To hear more of Owens' thoughts on the Buckeyes' recent struggles, Thursday's loss and the upcoming rivalry matchup, check out the full interview above.