Ohio State did just fine without Brice Sensabaugh on Friday.
But the Buckeyes need all the help they can get for Saturday's Big Ten Tournament semifinal matchup with No. 1 seed Purdue, and that goes double for the team's leading scorer. Sensabaugh missed his first game all year due to knee soreness in the Buckeyes' tournament quarterfinal contest against Michigan State in Chicago.
Ohio State got the win anyway, 68-58, but now the Buckeyes face a team that's already beaten them twice in the regular season – and that was with Sensabaugh on the court.
After a third win in as many days, Chris Holtmann said the issue stemmed from the second half of Thursday's Iowa game, and that Ohio State won't know anything definitive about Sensabaugh's status until later on tonight. However, he made it clear that the team is more concerned about Sensabaugh's long-term health than his ability to rush back against the Boilermakers.
"Late in the game yesterday, he said, 'Hey Coach I need to come out.' I thought he was fatigued. We took him to the bench, then we found out his knee was bothering him. He was evaluated by our medical staff," Holtmann said. "They decided, rightly and smartly, to keep him out for the rest of the game. There might have been five minutes to go at that point. Evaluated him last night, our medical staff evaluated him again this morning and he's getting testing done tonight. We'll hopefully know more tonight on how significant the injury is. That's really all we – we're just concerned about Brice. He's obviously got a really bright future.
"He really wanted to play. As did Zed (Key). Both those guys would love to be a part of this. It was clearly the right decision for him. I told him, I said, 'If you said Coach I'm playing, I don't know if I'd have let you play, honestly. I just don't know if I'd have let you play until we know for sure the extent of the injury.'"
Sensabaugh, who missed his junior season of high school basketball due to a knee injury that required multiple surgeries, is widely projected to be a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft. Sensabaugh was a third-team All-Big Ten selection and Big Ten All-Freshman team honoree for his 2022-23 campaign.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, who notched two wins over the Buckeyes during the regular season, actually “thought they played better” without Sensabaugh. But Izzo said that wasn’t a shot at the freshman forward.
“That's not an insult to him. Another 3-point shooter in there and definitely defensively (they played better). Somebody else got a chance. … Sensabaugh is a helluva player by the way. A helluva player,” Izzo said. “I just felt like maybe they played different without him. Maybe he convinced them they've got to really guard. A couple of those guys, I thought, put on a lot of pressure. I thought Roddy really played well. I thought their center, Okpara, did a good job on the ball screen stepping up, and that created some problems. We just didn't handle it very well.”
Ohio State takes on Purdue at 1 p.m Saturday on CBS for a chance to play in its second Big Ten Tournament championship game in the past three seasons.