Presser Bullets: Chris Holtmann Enjoyed Ohio State’s Aggression Against Alabama, Says Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. “Opens Up A Lot of Stuff”

By Andy Anders on November 28, 2023 at 4:49 pm

A successful weekend has provided a general boost of momentum for Ohio State's men's basketball team.

The Buckeyes won the Emerald Coast Classic by beating then-No. 17 Alabama 92-81 and decimating Santa Clara 86-56 in the tournament's title game. Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. recorded 29 and 23 points, respectively, against the Crimson Tide for career-highs.

With a 2-4 Central Michigan squad on tap next for Ohio State, most of the questions for Holtmann pertained to big-picture items, Emerald Coast Classic takeaways and what he's liked about Thornton and Gayle's performance thus far this season.

Prior to Holtmann's press conference, Thornton and Gayle met with the media to discuss both their own chemistry and that of the team, which has continued growing with what Gayle called a “childish” off-court personality.

Chris Holtmann

  • Ohio State's aggressiveness on the offensive end and good ball movement impressed him most about his team's performance against Alabama.
  • Holtmann feels that Jamison Battle has started to take the next step in his development. "I thought he had good aggressiveness, had a good look in his eye. Wasn't pressing, but was particularly aggressive."
  • On whether he feels Ohio State is coming together as a good defensive team: "Not a big enough sample size yet to make any statement yet. ... We have a significant amount to prove in terms of, 'Are we a substantive play on the defense end?' ... Some good segments, good moments of play for sure."
  • On how Thornton and Gayle's foundation in the backcourt helps the offense: "It opens up a lot of stuff. ... Those guys both when they're playing can be solid to plus-defenders as well. ... It's not just about what they bring on the offensive end. They have the ability to be dynamic at that end. But we recruited them to be complete players."
  • More on Thornton and Gayle: "Guard play is so critical, it's so critical in our game. ... It's good to see those guys grow in confidence, but they've got to keep doing it."
  • Holtmann has liked the strides the team has taken in some hot 3-point shooting performances of late, but still wants more consistency. "When we struggled shooting early, I thought it was not indicative of the kind of shooting team we have. ... We need to continue to be that. We need to continue to take good ones and we need to continue to stay away from mid-range or long twos and continue to turn those into 3-point opportunities."
  • On how Ohio State has shared the ball: "The fact that guys are selfless with the ball is a good thing. ... But I'll be interested to see how many of our buckets come off assists going forward and how that compares to recent years."
  • On whether he's been able to watch other teams in the Big Ten and his evaluation: "Our league the last week and a half had a really good week and a half. ... Purdue's obviously off to a great start, but there's some others. Nebraska's off to a great start. ... I've been able to catch some teams, but definitely not all the teams."
  • Holtmann said conversations are ongoing between Ohio State and the Big Ten in terms of adding conference games during the season and potentially changing the structure of the Big Ten Tournament as the league expands.
  • On practice the day after the team returned from the Emerald Coast Classic: "I think we had some good things, and I think we looked a little bit fatigued but we pressed through."
  • On what he thinks of his former player Joey Lane, who will be on the call Wednesday, as a broadcaster: "I'm really happy for Joey. He's got a career, but this is something he's developed as a broadcaster. He's really good at it, he's really knowledgable about it, he knows a lot about it." Holtmann added that he might watch the actual broadcast after the game as part of his film study since Lane is on the call. 

Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr.

  • Thornton and Gayle both feel incredible chemistry in Ohio State's backcourt, with Thornton adding that he feels the duo is among the tops in the nation. "I feel very comfortable. I feel like we're one of the best backcourts in the country. I feel like me and him on the court together, we can make a play at any given time."
  • Thornton keeps his trust that there are people all over the floor who can score for Ohio State, however. He said that it's about feeding the hot hand. "At any given time, anybody can make big shots."
  • Thornton said that keeping Alabama's No. 1 offense in check was about defensive rebounding and controlling the pace with stops. "It's just a standard that we hold ourselves to."
  • Gayle on Felix Okpara: "Felix is our guy. He's our defensive anchor. When he's rebounding and blocking shots like he was over the weekend, we can compete with the best teams in the country."
  • Cold shooting stretches don't deter the Buckeyes, Thornton said. "Everybody just keeps shooting those shots in practice, then eventually they're going to fall."
  • Thornton on transition opportunities: "Those will be very critical, especially for the things we want to accomplish as a team this year, winning championships, winning the Big Ten regular season."
  • Gayle on team chemistry coming off the Emerald Coast Classic win: "It's just an unbelievable feeling. ... This team is the most connected team I've been on in my entire life. ... We have that chemistry and that same bond with each other off the court as we do on the court."
  • Gayle described the team's off-court persona as "childish" and said that Battle probably embodies that personality the strongest. "That dude can't dance."
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