Chris Holtmann Says Better On-Ball Defense Will Lead to Better Defensive Rebounding for Ohio State

By Andy Anders on November 11, 2023 at 8:35 am
Roddy Gayle Jr., Chris Holtmann and Felix Okpara
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Seven points was the difference in Friday’s game. Ohio State lost the second-chance point battle by 10.

Now, it should be noted that Texas A&M is among the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, finishing 11th nationally in total offensive rebounds last season. Its coach, Buzz Williams, said that rebounding is “woven into the fabric” of everything the team does.

“In truth, we probably overcoach and overteach rebounding on both sides of the ball,” Williams said. “We do an incredible amount of study in how we show clips, in the numbers that we (study) analytically. ... There are so many things that are byproducts (of rebounding), whether it’s tempo, whether it’s free-throw rate, whether it’s rim shot percentage, there are so many things that we believe are byproducts of how we go about teaching rebounding. We try to recruit to it and it’s a very high priority.”

Williams added that he even has a coach on staff assigned to be his “rebounding coordinator.”

That doesn’t change that rebounding is an area the Buckeyes will need to improve upon as the season moves forward. As star point guard Bruce Thornton pointed out, second-chance points aren’t just a swing on the scoreboard, they can also be demoralizing.

“When a team gets so many second-chance points, having that extra effort on defense is two times harder because you’re just scrambling,” Thornton said. “They get easy, wide-open threes or layups or fouls.”

The Aggies collected 16 offensive rebounds and posted 19 second-chance points to Ohio State’s nine in a 73-66 Texas A&M win.

It was an all-out assault on each offensive rebound from the Aggies, who often sent four players after a potential missed shot on its end.

“They crash four, so you’ve got to make sure all four guys on defense are hit in the correct way, because I got a foul called (on me),” Thornton said. “I wasn’t ready for the late incoming missile, so I got hit with a foul. So make sure you have the mentality and the technique at the same time, which is kind of difficult, but if you want to win, you have to get the job done at the end of the day.”

Forward Henry Coleman III did a lot of TAMU's dirty work, gathering a game-high 11 rebounds with four on the offensive end. The root cause of Ohio State’s defensive rebounding issues came before a shot or box-outs could occur, however, per Chris Holtmann. With a veteran backcourt featuring preseason SEC player of the year Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford, who finished first and second in scoring for the Aggies last year, Texas A&M was able to get plenty of dribble-drive penetration and draw help defense.

“We had trouble directing the ball in our ball-screen coverage at times,” Holtmann said. “Then we had trouble in our isolation situations of keeping the ball in front of us. (Radford and Taylor) are good players, they hit some tough shots, but there were other times when there were too many straight-line drives, and when you do that your secondary defenders are going to have to commit, and when they do commit, you leave good rebounders at the basket open.”

The Buckeyes did a better job as the game progressed of keeping pace with the Aggies on the glass. TAMU had an 8-2 offensive rebounding advantage and was up 13-2 on second-chance points at halftime, but in the second half, it was OSU who held a 10-8 edge on offensive boards and a 7-6 lead on second-chance points.

Still, some of the second-chance points Texas A&M got in the final 20 minutes were backbreaking. After Ohio State cut its deficit to 59-56 with 5:23 to play, Texas A&M forward Andersson Garcia got an offensive board and putback bucket to make it 61-56.

Thornton later cut the deficit to 63-60 only to be whistled for a foul while attempting to box Radford out on the ensuing defensive possession. Radford hit both free throws and Ohio State never pulled back within one score.

The good news for Ohio State is that it’s early. Yes, defensive rebounding was an issue in its exhibition against Dayton and its first regular-season game against Oakland, as those teams scored 17 and 13 second-chance points against the Buckeyes.

But with 29 games remaining on its schedule, there’s a lot of development still to go for Ohio State.

“Texas A&M is a good, physical team,” Thornton said. “It just shows what we need to work on moving forward. It was a good challenge early in the season so you see what you need to work on and move forward from it.”

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