Ohio State hasn’t had much success in January over Chris Holtmann’s seven seasons, so a Martin Luther King Day loss at Michigan — despite the Wolverines’ woeful season so far — was no surprise.
Ann Arbor, MI – Absent your iPhone and all the essential elements available at the swipe of a finger, one need not be an expert in ocean tides nor the constellations to know what month we’re amid.
All that’s required is a quick check of the loss column on the Ohio State basketball ledger. If that number is growing by the day, you know it must be January.
No month has bedeviled the Buckeyes under seventh-year head coach Chris Holtmann more than the first one of the new year, the one known for turning over a new leaf or making positive changes.
Alas, it was more of the same misery for OSU in Holtmannuary on Monday at Michigan, where the embattled and struggling Wolverines’ 73-65 triumph pinned a third straight loss on Ohio State. That dropped OSU to 1-3 for the month, following in the footsteps of the 2-7 misery the Buckeyes endured last January, which precipitated a 16-19 finish overall.
Unless something changes quickly – and how promising does that appear with a team that hasn’t won a true road game in over one year, given away games at Nebraska and Northwestern before Groundhog Day – this would mark the fourth time in his seven seasons that Holtmann’s team endured an under-.500 January.
In case you forgot, OSU went 1-6 in January of 2019 and 2-5 in January of 2020.
Overall, Holtmann’s teams are 25-27 in January, which is, of course, the first month on the calendar when the competition stiffens to primarily include Big Ten opponents notoriously unforgiving of an opponent’s weakness.
For Ohio State, that’s suddenly its three-point shooting, something the Buckeyes rode throughout the non-conference to a 10-1 record.
Of course, it’s a different deal hitting triples over New Orleans, Santa Clara and Merrimack than it is knocking them down against Indiana, Wisconsin or Michigan, the trio that’s inflicted OSU’s three-game skid.
The Buckeyes went just 7-of-27 from deep at IU, 6-of-18 at home against the Badgers and stunk up Crisler Arena to the tune of 5-of-25 from distance against an opponent that entered 310th in the nation in three-point defense and 323rd in scoring defense.
Those woeful coverage numbers explain why the Wolverines had lost five in a row and, at 6-10 overall, sported the worst overall record in the Big Ten, having lost 10 of 13 since a 3-0 start.
While you were busy watching Missouri defeat Ohio State, 14-3, in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 30, Michigan basketball was losing at home to McNeese State, 87-76, prompting the hashtag, #FireJuwan to trend on X.
The mood among Michigan men was considerably merrier yesterday with the maize-and-blue faithful – and head coach Juwan Howard’s henchmen from the infamous Fab Five – in the house to watch a third straight win over OSU.
“I thought our guys showed some good fight in the second half,” Holtmann said of a rally from nine down at the break to a four-point lead with less than eight minutes to play. “We just have to do some things a little better offensively, for sure.”
Yes, it would surely help if Jamison Battle, previously OSU’s most-reliable three-point threat, didn’t shoot 2-for-10 overall and 1-for-8 beyond the arc.
It would also have been beneficial for Dale Bonner, whose three consecutive assists helped OSU finish a 16-0 burst that provided a 59-55 lead, not missed a layup in traffic that would have extended that margin.
Bonner and Roddy Gayle then missed three-point attempts that allowed Michigan back in front by one, and a 7-0 burst on three straight scoring possessions offset Gayle’s dunk at 4:23 that put the Buckeyes in front for the last time.
Bruce Thornton led Ohio State with 19 points, but needed the same amount of field goal attempts to get there, including 2-of-7 from distance.
Battle finished with just five points, while Felix Okpara had 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
OSU (12-5 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) is home Saturday at noon against Penn State, which rallied from 19 down in the second half to defeat the Buckeyes, 83-80, on Dec. 9.