Presser Bullets: Chris Holtmann Discusses Ohio State's Matchup With Miami, Buckeyes' Early-Season Success

By Andy Anders on December 5, 2023 at 4:36 pm

It's been a successful first month of the season for Ohio State basketball.

Off a losing campaign a year ago, the Buckeyes have started 7-1 with a win over then-No. 17 Alabama and an Emerald Coast Classic title. On Sunday Ohio State opened Big Ten play with an 84-74 win over Minnesota, jumping into the USA TODAY Coaches Poll for the first time this season at No. 25.

Holtmann is staying patient with his confidence, however, wanting a larger sample size before trusting the Buckeyes' improvements in certain key metrics. He mentioned as much in his weekly media conference on Tuesday, while also discussing Evan Mahaffey's fit in the starting lineup, Bruce Thornton's leadership role and Ohio State's upcoming matchup with Miami (Ohio).

  • On Miami: "Playing really well right now, just won at Marshall. Won four of the last five games they've played here. ... Got a very great, very skilled group."
  • On how the game wound up sandwiched between two Big Ten opponents: "You've got to get a certain number of games in, and when you're scheduling, you're not always exactly sure when you're going to be playing these two Big Ten games. ... It's a little bit of a time crunch ... we need to be ready to go, ready to play."
  • Miami basketball coach Travis Steele spent four seasons at Xavier before heading to Oxford, and Holtmann sees some similar concepts in both teams. "They're different offensively than what they were when he was there. Predicated on great spacing and skill. ... But there's definitely some similarities."
  • On Ohio State's defensive metrics, which have improved since last year: "It'll be interesting to see what they look like the next eight, 10 games. I think that's when you can say there are some things that have been improved upon ... I think we have a little more length, a little more quickness."
  • Mahaffey has forced some attempts through tight coverage, but Holtmann wants to see him continue to shoot open 3s. "His shot selection has been pretty good. He's shot a couple of walled-up shots."
  • On getting his team back up for this contest after an emotional Big Ten win: "We need to have a readiness to play and have great preparation. But yeah, I think your antennae is up as a coach because of the reality of college basketball."
  • Thornton has made great strides in his sophomore season, Holtmann agreed. "I think he's taken a step, yeah. ... He's had a phenomenal start. I credit so much to his everyday approach that he's had a level of consistency."
  • On Thornton as a leader: "His greatest leadership attribute right now is his every day approach. ... That's who you want to do that. ... He's all of that in terms of his consistency."
  • Holtmann said he's looking for "aggression" and strong openings from his starting lineup. "Good starts to both halves is, really, what you're looking for. ... I think that group can do a better job with some of those things, but that's what you're looking for."
  • On Ohio State leading the Big Ten in 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting: "I'm waiting to see a bigger sample size. ... It's (about) sharing the ball. And with free throws, it's about getting your best free throw shooters to the line. ... It sounds basic and elementary, but it's really important."
  • On why Mahaffey starts for the team: "He's a ball mover, he brings energy to the glass. He's got to get better in some of those areas defensively and offensively, he knows that."
  • Thornton's gotten better at finishing through contact inside as his career has progressed, Holtmann said. "Bruce has shown the ability to attack and get others involved, which is great."
  • On what was different about recruiting Felix Okpara, who is a native Nigerian: "He had a great family that he was living with in Tennessee and that really helped. ... Felix was always pretty easy to talk to, he's a smart kid ... even if sometimes, his English, there was some confusion over the phone. ... He's been raised really well by his family here and his family back home."
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