After Sunday’s 55-52 win against Indiana, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann would not talk about anything further along than the next game against Illinois. He would not call his team a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, he would not talk about what a win against the Fighting Illini would do to help the Buckeyes’ chances in March.
The focus was on the immediate future. And that focus continued, even with the 63-56 home loss to Illinois.
“A loss is a loss. I mean, a loss is a loss,” Holtmann said. “People look at it differently. I’m disappointed after every loss, whoever it is, whatever time it is, whatever point in the season.”
But junior forward Andre Wesson did not share the same sentiment his head coach did.
He stepped up to the podium after the seven-point loss, and did not hide his disappointment with what the outcome ended up being, saying that all losses hurt.
But he expanded, peering past the immediate future barrier that Holtmann and his coaching staff have seemingly set upon Ohio State.
“This one we needed to have,” Wesson said. “We are .500. We are trying to make the NCAA Tournament. We are not a lock, so any game we play, we gotta have right now.”
Wesson sees the reality of what happened against Illinois. It’s a familiar look for the Buckeyes.
The offensive struggles continued, shooting 36.2 percent from the field and making 2-of-13 from 3. In either half, Ohio State failed to record double-digit field goals.
The mistakes continued in the backcourt and in the passing game. Facing the No. 1 Big Ten team in terms of steals and turnover margin, the Buckeyes recorded 18 turnovers — 10 in the first half and eight in the second — leading to 14 Fighting Illini points.
The 18 turnovers Ohio State recorded exceeded the number of field goals, 17, the team connected on.
To Wesson, this loss shows the competitive depth of the Big Ten, but it also showed a lack of preparedness, which he blamed on himself and the older members of the roster.
“Every night you can get beat if you don’t show up,” Wesson said. “We came out tonight and we weren’t prepared. That’s on me and us older guys. We didn’t get the younger guys prepared and that’s what happens. That’s how you get beat.”
Holtmann blamed the coaching staff, saying it has to put its players in better positions to succeed, giving the upperclassmen an outlet to lead in an effective way.
After five minutes, Wesson left. After six minutes, Holtmann left. Their focus turned to the same thing: Ohio State’s next opponent.
But with that next game comes an opponent that exceeds the level and the quality of the opponent that handed the Buckeyes a seven-point loss
“It doesn’t get any easier with Michigan State at Michigan State,” Wesson said. “It doesn’t get any easier. We got to go to work.”
However, in Holtmann’s mind, Ohio State is just another bubble team, placing Illinois in that same conversation.
He said the focus remains the same. He said it’s about getting better on the court.
So, when asked about the NCAA Tournament, Holtmann shrugged it off.
“No, no we won’t talk about it. We’ll talk about getting better,” Holtmann said. “We’ll talk about getting better.”
But with Wesson, who left with the same downtrodden look he came in with after the game, that’s seemingly all he can think about.