Chris Holtmann Says Ohio State Was “Soft” Rebounding and Defensively in 14-Point Loss to Nebraska

By Andy Anders on January 24, 2024 at 8:35 am
Chris Holtmann
Dylan Widger – USA TODAY Sports

One word pervaded the most eye-catching quote in Chris Holtmann’s postgame radio interview – soft.

While taking the blame for his team’s shortcomings in that regard, the coach felt that the Buckeyes’ rebounding, defense and off-ball movement just didn’t have enough force behind them, part of the reason they fell 83-69 to Nebraska on Tuesday.

“We weren’t physical or tough enough,” Holtmann said. “That is ultimately on me. We were too soft at times with the ball, soft with our cuts and soft defensively. We’ve got to be better in that area. That was clear. I think you saw it on the glass, for sure.”

Three-point shooting certainly served to help the Huskers, too. Nebraska went 14-of-27 (51.9%) from downtown to the Buckeyes’ 8-of-23 (34.8%), with a career 6-of-8 three-point shooting night from Rienk Mast. He finished with a career-high 34 points.

“When he’s making threes it just spreads everybody out,” Holtmann said. “You’ve gotta look at different ways to guard it. Sometimes it’s maybe an atypical lineup. And again, that’s something that we have not been great with all year with both Felix and Zed. So we’ve gotta get better at it.”

The Huskers have taken and made a lot of threes throughout the season, ranking 42nd nationally in made threes per game (9.3) and 33rd in attempts (26.6) entering Tuesday. That’s nothing new.

What is new is for the Huskers to close out on the defensive glass, as they grabbed nine offensive rebounds to the Buckeyes’ six. Nebraska is 337th nationally this season when it comes to denying offensive boards, allowing 12.1 per game. That’s twice as many as Ohio State collected against the scarlet and cream.

“For us to only have six offensive rebounds, that is a joke for us right now,” Holtmann said. “We are a better rebounding team than that. Across the board, we have to be better. We are not playing with the kind of force we need to, and that falls on me.”

“We were too soft at times with the ball, soft with our cuts and soft defensively. We’ve got to be better in that area.”– Chris Holtmann on his team’s performance vs. Nebraska

Nebraska’s offense was humming throughout the contest.

It shot 49.2% from the field in addition to its gaudy 51.9% from three, the highest field-goal percentage Ohio State has allowed all season to an opponent. The Buckeyes were only able to pluck six turnovers from the Huskers, with eight points off those turnovers and zero fast break points.

“Across the board, we weren’t nearly tough enough,” Holtmann said. “Ultimately, that’s my fault. I take responsibility for that. We just weren’t as tough or as physical as we needed to be. And again, give them credit. They took advantage. Good team.”

Similar sentiments have been written plenty over the past few weeks, but Ohio State will need to toughen up and get its act together overall in a hurry.

With 13 straight losses on the road and four defeats in their last five games overall, the Buckeyes face a daunting Big Ten schedule ahead. They go to Northwestern on Saturday, get No. 10 Illinois at home then head to Iowa the following game.

If the Buckeyes can’t win a majority of their games down the stretch, their NCAA Tournament hopes could fade quickly. They are already firmly planted on the bubble.

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