Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said he had never met Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann, but that he was impressed by his body of work in the short amount of time he had been a head coach.
“He’s one of the best coaches I have seen coming up in a long time,” Boeheim said. “I haven’t been the coach of the year three times in 43 years. He’s a lot better than I am.”
And after Wednesday’s 72-62 loss to the Orange, Holtmann will have some more coaching to do.
The Buckeyes suffered its first loss of the season, starting the season off with six straight wins, including road wins against Cincinnati and Creighton.
Now, with a younger team to lead, Holtmann will see how Ohio State will respond moving forward, especially with the Orange ending the Buckeyes’ non-conference play and the team starting its Big Ten schedule on Sunday.
“We will see what we take. I would hope we will learn from any, every single win or loss. You are constantly trying to figure out ways we can improve,” Holtmann said. “There’s not question that we will need to play better and, as a coaching staff, we need to make sure our guys are ready.”
Holtmann said these kind of games were bound to happen, especially with the early season schedule Ohio State has. He said the team will watch film, being critical of its play and bringing closure to the first loss of the season.
But the head coach still admitted his team got exposed in many areas it had not before. The Syracuse offense, at points, rolled past the man defense Ohio State played, forcing them to zone at times in the second half. The Orange shot 48.9 percent from the field against the Buckeyes, scoring the most points they have given up all season.
For an Ohio State offense that lives and dies with its big man, sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson struggled to finish on Wednesday, connecting on 1-of-8 from the field.
Holtmann knows his team has to get better, and his players share that mentality.
Senior guard C.J. Jackson said the first step to improvement starts in the next practices.
“When it’s winning, everybody’s enjoying themselves and it’s kind of easy just to say ‘we are good’ and move on,” Jackson said. “But when you lose, it’s kind of when you find out what kind of team you got and what kind of guys you got. And I think the right group of guys [are] in the locker room, the right group.”
Jackson said the Ohio State locker room is focused and, despite being viewed as one of the leaders of the team, full of competitors. He said nothing has really changed in the team’s mentality as a whole.
“GIve credit to coach Holtmann for getting guys that really want to win and want to win more than anything, not for themselves, but for everyone in the locker room and in the university,” Jackson said.
Overall, sophomore forward Kyle Young has been satisfied with the performance of Ohio State through the first seven games. Winning six out of seven games, earning a place in the Associated Press Top 25, this was not a place than many expected the Buckeyes to be in.
And this is the thought process Young said each player has to approach every single game with. As an underdog, as the unexpected team. That brings fuel to the Ohio State locker room, and that is what will lead to more wins.
“We have to come out every night, you know, just ready to prove to people how good we are as a team,” Young said. “We kind of have to have that edge because a lot of people expected us to have a few more losses by now. We have to play with that edge every night. We can’t lose that.”