We’ve added a few new brilliant writers to our staff over the past week or so, and along with that we’ve decided to roll out a new series of articles called “You’re Nuts!” where we pit two writers against each other with a prompt relating to Ohio State athletics. Think First Take, Around the Horn, or Undisputed, but with less yelling and actual, substantive answers.
Speaking of new writers, today’s Nuts article pits our resident college basketball specialist Connor Lemons against Justin Golba, a new (but not so new) writer who will cover both college football and basketball for us. Justin was a contributor for LGHL from 2018 to 2019 before taking a brief hiatus. But he’s back, they always come back...
Throughout the week our Nuts articles have hit pretty heavily on college football, and more specifically, the NFL Draft. That’s good and fun, but we’ve got two basketball aficionados here, so we’re going to shift our gaze to the hardwood. We’ve got some thoughts about Buckeye basketball and Chris Holtmann; so many thoughts, in fact, that we’re going to share them with you every Friday afternoon until we’re completely out of them — which will never happen.
If you agree with one of us, let us know in the comments below, or respond on Twitter! We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in particular, and also anything Ohio State hoops-related.
Today’s Question: What has been the biggest win of the Chris Holtmann era?
Connor’s Pick: Ohio State 80, No. 1 Michigan State 64 (January 7, 2018)
Chris Holtmann has had quite a few ranked wins since becoming the head coach of your Ohio State Buckeyes in 2017 — 14, to be exact. But the one that’s forever burnt into my mind is the day that an upstart Ohio State team that was picked to finish ELEVENTH in the Big Ten preseason poll beat the breaks off a powerhouse Michigan State team that would eventually go on to win the B1G and send four players to the NBA.
Oh, and they were ranked No. 1 in the country, too.
I was a student at the time, and my main involvement (main priority, honestly) in college was helping organize and set up the Buckeye Nuthouse before every home game. It was a freezing cold Sunday afternoon, and I was there a few hours early to set up the section before all the students arrived. I wish I could tell you that we felt “something in the air” like something magical was about to happen, but we did not. We were a group of kids whose school hadn’t made it to the NCAA Tournament in two years, let alone beat the top-ranked team in the nation anytime recently. We thought we were going to get our you-know-what’s beat.
Michigan State trotted out future pros Jaren Jackson, Cassius Winston, Miles, Bridges, and Xavier Tillman, as well as Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, two All-Big Ten selections. Ohio State countered with eventual B1G Player of the Year Keita Bates Diop, future Houston Rocket Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, CJ Jackson, and Kaleb Wesson.
The first half was a back and forth affair, punch followed by counter punch with a few ugly turnovers on each side. By no means a blowout either way, but the pressure laid mostly on the shoulders of the top-ranked Michigan State squad who was supposed to easily dispatch the plucky, unranked Buckeyes. With 22 seconds left in the half and Ohio State leading 33-29, Kam Williams launched and connected on a three pointer from in front of the MSU bench, and as he turned around gave a not-so-subtle throat slashing gesture to the Spartans’ bench and scorer’s table. It only put Ohio State up seven.
Holy shit, we’re going to win this game aren’t we? I thought to myself. Once you’ve throat-slashed the opposition, you really have no choice
And then moments later the biggest shot of Andrew Dakich’s career happened:
I have — to this day — never heard the Schottenstein Center as loud as it was after Dakich banked in that three. It was his only shot attempt of the game, and it sent a shell-shocked Spartans squad to the locker room down a dozen to an upstart, never-say-die Buckeye squad led by a first-year head coach.
Michigan State never recovered. The Buckeyes came out as the aggressors in the second half, knocking the top-ranked Spartans back down before they had a chance to formulate a comeback. The lead grew to as much as 23 around the 14:00 mark, and the romp was officially on in Columbus.
All 600 or so students forced their way into the front three rows of seats in the closing minutes, knowing that chaos was about to ensue. When the buzzer sounded and Ohio State’s victory was official, Chris Holtmann himself tore away several chairs from the home bench, creating an opening for students to rush through,
“GO! GO! GO!” Ohio State’s new head coach screamed at the students. Urging them — no, strike that — demanding they go celebrate with the team on the floor. The student body obliged and swarmed the players at center court as the now now formerly-top ranked Spartans fought through the crowd to get back to their locker room.
It had been exactly a decade since Ohio State last beat the No. 1 team in the country, when they knocked off top-ranked Wisconsin 49-48 back in 2017. For a building that’s usually quiet enough that fans sitting courtside can knit sweaters in peace, it was quite a scene. And for a fanbase —and student body — that was starving for something to celebrate, they absolutely got it that afternoon.
Justin’s Pick: Ohio State 62, Iowa State 59 (March 22nd, 2019, First round of the NCAA Tournament).
My pick is what I would consider one of the most impressive wins of the Holtmann era, especially looking back on it. First of all, it was the first upset for the Buckeyes in the tournament under Holtmann. Their first win was the season before against South Dakota State but they were the favorites in that game.
Second of all, this was a roller coaster of a season for the Buckeyes. They lost Kieta Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Micah Potter in the offseason and were fairly inexperienced as a whole outside of the Wesson brothers and graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods.
They started the season on fire, jumping out to a 12-1 record and being the surprise of the early college basketball season. Then, they lost five in a row, followed that up by winning four out of their next five, went back and forth a couple times and then they finished out the season losing three in a row. The Buckeyes finished 18-13 overall but just 8-12 in the conference.
Still, with how loaded the Big Ten was in 2019 and with what the Buckeyes lost, a tournament appearance sufficed and made the season a solid one. The Buckeyes drew the 11 seed and faced off against the six seed Iowa State.
To remind you about this Iowa State team, they had one of the best players in the conference (Marial Shayok) and two players that are now solid contributors on good NBA teams (Tyrese Haliburton and Talen Horton-Tucker). In recap, this Cyclone team was no joke. Most people did not give Ohio State a shot in this one.
Similar to their season, this was an up and down game, with the Buckeyes getting out to multiple leads and Iowa State continuously cutting back into it. In the end, Ohio State made some key free throws down the stretch and won the game by three, advancing to play the three seed in the region, Houston. Kaleb Wesson finished with 21 and 12.
This game was important because it showed the never give up in this team and the culture that Holtmann was and is building. Even though the season was up and down, they fought to the tournament and then used that resilience to nab their biggest tournament win in five years.
It’s not the sexiest win, but it was in a season after they lost 60 percent of their offense and a couple legendary Buckeyes. It’s a solid notch in Chris Holtmann’s decorative belt.
Who has the right answer to today’s question: What has been the biggest win of the Chris Holtmann era?
This poll is closed
Connor: Ohio State over No. 1 Michigan State
Justin: No. 11 Ohio State over No. 6 Iowa State
Youre’ both nuts