Buckeyes shoot for four in a row at Wisconsin, and the play of guard Duane Washington is pivotal, making up for lost points and minutes from freshman point guard DJ Carton.
Columbus – Duane Washington knows what’s coming whenever he blows a play on defense or makes a poor decision with the basketball…and really doesn’t have to look in the direction of the bench.
The usual penalty during the next dead ball is a scowl and terse comment from Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann and a seat. Sometimes Holtmann will be so upset that he won’t even look at Washington.
Those riveting eyes, though, usually are locked on to him like a heat-seeking missile.
“Every once in a while you look over and you feel he’s just standing there looking through your whole soul,’’ Washington said.
Holtmann was so hacked off with Washington’s play in a game at Indiana on January 11 that he received seven minutes playing time in the first half and zero in the second.
Told about Washington’s “soul” comment, Holtmann was amused and broke into a grin after the shock wore off.
“Geez,’’ he said. “Did he say that just now?’’
Then Holtmann added a touche’ moment, probably hoping that Washington would read it.
“I’m just hoping there’s something there,’’ he said regarding the soul.
Holtmann confessed that Washington “drives me batty’’ at times.
When he was recruiting Washington out of Grand Rapids Christian High School in Michigan and then Sierra Canyon in California, many people warned him that some tough love would be in order.
“Duane is a great kid, and I love coaching Duane Washington,’’ Holtmann said. “He needs to be coached. When we recruited him everybody said, ‘Coach, you have to stay on him, stay on him,’ including his dad. He has the potential to really grow as a player.’’
With freshman DJ Carton on an indefinite leave of absence to attend to mental health issues, Washington has never been more important to the Buckeyes.
It’s expected that Washington again will share point guard with CJ Walker when the Buckeyes (15-7, 5-6) go after their fourth straight Big Ten win against Wisconsin (13-10, 6-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Kohl Center.
Ohio State wouldn’t have defeated Michigan 61-58 on Tuesday in Ann Arbor without Washington scoring 17 points, including a three-pointer with 54 seconds left, playing 30-plus minutes.
Washington’s feelings do get beat up when he is taken out, but he knows it’s nothing personal and for his greater gain.
“For him to be on me like that, he wouldn’t tell me anything wrong,’’ he said. “That’s in the moment. It’s definitely hard to take when emotions are rising and falling. At the end of the day, he knows what he’s telling me is to benefit me and not to hurt me. I appreciate that from him. I know his intentions behind it are to get you to play better. To have somebody behind you who cares means a lot.’’
Washington was recruited as a combo guard, but was solely a shooting guard as a freshman and until Carton left. He will never be a pure playmaker like Walker, where he takes the shot only if it’s the final option.
Defenses can’t sag off on him like they do Walker. He is averaging 11.1 points and ranks third in the conference in three-point field goal percentage at 41.1 (39-for-95).
“Some point guards on some teams are supposed to get 10 assists per game and others are supposed to score more than others,’’ he said. “I’m just trying to figure out what Coach wants me to do at that position and still being me at the same time. I’m working on it.’’
It’s vital that Washington succeeds with walk-on Danny Hummer being the only other true point man on the roster.
In no way does Holtmann want Washington to be thinking pass first.
“I don’t want him to play a whole lot differently than what his instincts are,’’ he said. “We want him to be who he is. He’s not going to be a point guard who is setting things up. He’s certainly not going to suddenly turn into a pass first (player). That wouldn’t fit him. He has to be who he is and adjust.’’
Junior center and forward Kyle Young understands what Washington is going through as far as being benched for mistakes.
The leap from high school to college, he said, is immense.
“That probably would have started freshman year,’’ Young said of Holtmann’s wrath. “You just don’t have as much, I would say, leniency. Coming from high school, you could do just about anything and it would be no big deal. Coming into an environment and learning college basketball when you first get here, you’ve got to know that there are good shots and bad shots and good plays and bad plays. The only reason Coach is going to get on you is because he cares.’’
Young said being pulled off the floor should be treated as a teaching moment and that a player must avoid sulking or being angry.
“Just taking it all in, especially when you have an assistant talking to you,’’ he said. “It’s making eye contact and listening to what they have to say because whatever they have to say will be important going back in. It’s just absorbing it and taking it in.’’
Young said Washington has the ability to take over a game for stretches.
“I love playing with him,’’ he said.
Young will be looking forward to playing against the Badgers after missing the first meeting because he was recovering from an appendectomy.
“The competitor in you is just itching to get out, and I was disappointed I couldn’t play,’’ he said. “I’m back into it now and ready to get back at it Sunday against a good team.’’
Both teams have undergone strife and change since Wisconsin laid a 61-57 loss on Ohio State on January 3 at The Schott. The Buckeyes were outscored 12-3 down the stretch.
The Badgers lost second-leading scorer Kobe King, a redshirt sophomore guard, to the transfer portal weeks ago. His beef wasn’t with the team’s deliberate half-court style, but with coach Greg Gard.
Former Wisconsin forward Tyler Herro, now with the Miami Heat, criticized the team’s style of play and said he couldn’t blame King for leaving.
Then senior guard Brad Davison was suspended for one game after being charged with a flagrant foul for grabbing Iowa guard Connor McCaffery in the crotch trying to slip a screen.
Erik Helland, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, resigned Thursday after it was revealed that he used racial epithets when telling a story from his days in the NBA.
The team has lost three of its last four games, but the victory was a 64-63 upset of Michigan State with Davison serving his suspension.
The Buckeyes most recent woe is sophomore guard Luther Muhammad playing with a balky shoulder that has popped out of place in games against Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan.