March 14, 2018
BOISE, Idaho – The Ohio State men’s basketball team met with the media and held an open practice Wednesday afternoon at Taco Bell Arena. The No. 5 seed Buckeyes open NCAA Tournament play against No. 12 seed South Dakota State at 4 p.m. ET Thursday. The game will be televised on TNT.
Ohio State, led by first-year head coach Chris Holtmann, is making its 28th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State, 49-26 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, has advanced to play in 10 Final Fours, finished as the runner up four times (1939, 1961, 1962, 2007) and owns one title (1960). Ohio State finished third four times (1944, 1945, 1946, 1968). The Buckeyes have made 14 “Sweet 16” appearances in NCAA Tournament play.
Redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, the 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year, averages a team-high 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for Ohio State while senior Jae’Sean Tate adds 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Junior guard C.J. Jackson chips in 12.2 points and a team-best 124 total assists while freshman forward Kaleb Wesson tacks on 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Jae’Sean #1 , Senior Forward
Playing for Coach Holtmann…
“It’s seeing the consistency and the great players he’s able to recruit and seeing him have success at the next level. Numbers don’t lie. People can say you have one or two bad years but the success he had in the years prior outweighs that. It’s not even close.”
Penn State forced you to take shots or give it up, how do you combat that?
“Being more aggressive is important. A lot of the times it’s more mental. I think that I’ve been working on just being in rhythm. There were times that I stalled. I stalled a lot during that game, I didn’t really know what to do with the ball. I just need to make sure I know what to do when I get it.”
Coach mentioned keeping you out of foul trouble is key, how do you keep yourself in check…
“I just need to stay positive. I need to make it a positive emotion. I like calling it passion rather than emotion. I try to be more passionate about the game. I have to make sure I don’t allow bad calls to get to me. I’m trying to focus on the next play.”
When you face someone like Mike Dahm, we know what he can do offensively, what does he do defensively that makes him dangerous?
“He has a big body and a big frame. He has a huge wingspan. His ability to alter shots is really good. With him, we’ll have to make sure we have strong drives. That big frame can really alter the shots.”
It’s been a while since you’ve played in a game, how ready are you for tomorrow?
“We’re definitely ready. Having two weeks off is something I’ve never experienced. I’d rather be playing games than practicing every day. I’m just ready to get back out there.”
How high is the confidence and what is the mentality for you guys?
“Our whole mentality is it is what it has been. People didn’t really expect us to do much. They counted us out in the regular season. The chip just got bigger. We’re just going to keep doing it.”
Do you feel like the pressure is off tomorrow?
“I don’t feel any pressure. We’re playing a good team and we’re all competitors. At the end of the day, we just want to compete.”
Kaleb Wesson #34, Freshman Forward
What’s the team mentality; what’s the confidence level at right now?
“I’m very confident. After we lost to Penn State we came back to the drawing board and went to work. We’re ready to play.”
What’s it been like with all this time off?
“Like I said, we went back to the drawing board and I feel very confident about our game plan for Thursday. It’s going to be fun.”
Has the time off been good for you? I know there’s been some talk about the ankle and fatigue from the year. Did that actually help you personally, not just the team?
“Yeah, the time off is good for my ankle. I try to get some good conditioning in, just to keep my game up.”
Was (the ankle injury) affecting you much?
“It affected my body. My ankle was hurting. It was good to get the two-week break.”
Did they try to manage that with you the past few weeks to get you off your feet? You said you did some cardio?
“We still did the cardio, and I would go into rehab every day afterwards.
What all did it entail to get that ankle fixed?
“Just a lot of banded stuff, a lot of mobility.”
Does March Madness wear you down at all? Do you feel that?
“Yeah, you’re just sitting on the couch sometimes and you’re like, “I’m tired; I wasn’t like this last year!’ Yeah, it’s definitely different.”
Jae’Sean has been around for so long. He seems like someone who is going to do whatever it takes to get you through to some wins this weekend.
“Like I said, we’re going to let them tell us what to do, and what it takes to win.”
Kam Williams #1, Senior Guard
What do you feel now that you’re here?
“It’s an amazing experience. Being away from it for a couple of years, you definitely get hungrier and hungrier. We finally made it. Now we just have a job to do, and that’s to place these games.”
Do you feel like you’re playing with house money since you guys were picked 11th, 12th in the conference?
“We knew what we were capable of once the season started. Once those practices and games got rolling, once we got rolling, we knew that if we just executed what we needed to execute, we would make it to this point. Now that we’re here, we’ve just got to continue to do our jobs.”
What have you seen out of SDSU?
“They take a lot of 3s, they get fouled a lot, they don’t really turn the ball over. They’ve got a really good center, so we’ve got to keep him under wraps. Like I said, we’ve just got to go out and execute the game plan and we’ll be fine.”
What’s the message the veterans are giving to the younger players on the team?
“Just stay in the moment. Live in the moment. You don’t get this opportunity many times in your life, so while you’re here, you’ve got to just cherish it. This is something you can tell your kids about.”
How ready is this team to play? It’s been two weeks since you’ve played.
“Everybody is hungry. Everybody was eager to come to practice. I’m just excited to see how it goes when we’re out there on the floor, because we’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong.”
Do you feel like you guys have a chip on your shoulder? What pressure do you have on you?
“We saw some of the stuff some of the writers have been saying, like, ‘we don’t belong here; they’re going to beat us.’ We’re not even going to talk about it, we’re just going to show them once we get out there on the court.”
What challenges does SDSU bring you?
“They space the floor; they’ve got a really good spread offense. We’ve got to prevent ourselves from getting over-extended. Obviously, they’ve got a really good shooter. 6’9” with a 7-ft. wing span. We feel like if we can contain him, everything else will fall into place.”
“We knew we had more basketball to play. Obviously, we don’t want to lose the way we did, but we have more basketball to play, and as long as we can extend our season, then that’s great for us.”