On Saturday night, No. 5 Ohio State faced No. 4 Gonzaga in a second-round game and the Buckeyes’ season came to a close with a 90-84 defeat.
Zach Norvell Jr. led all players with his 28 points. Gonzaga jumped out to an early 15-0 lead in the game. By halftime, Ohio State trailed by 11. The Bulldogs’ lead would be cut down to two points not even three minutes into the second half.
In response, Gonzaga ended the game on a 28-17 run in the final 6 minutes for its victory.
Ohio State ends its season with a 25-9 overall record. The 25 wins mark an eight-game improvement from last season. This year was also coach Chris Holtmann’s first with the Buckeyes.
After the game against Gonzaga, Holtmann talked with the media.
What Chris Holtmann said after Ohio State’s loss
Opening statement: “Give Mark and his kids a lot of credit. I think they’re really good. I think they can make another really deep run. He’s got a phenomenal program. We begin by just giving Gonzaga a lot of credit for making the plays down the stretch.
“I was really proud of our guys’ spirit, competitive spirit. It’s been that way all year. We’ve got a special bunch, and it’s disappointing to see it end because we have such a special group of guys. We’ll leave it at that.”
On Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. and Rui Hachimura: “Their two 3s were really the difference. Zach’s 3 in the corner off, it looked like, a step-back corner 3 that was really well defended by Andre Wesson was a crushing blow. And then obviously 21’s 3 there — I think it’s the first one he’s made since December. So I just was told that. It’s nice to hear.
“But, yeah, those were crushing.”
On how different his team is now compared to earlier this season: “Yeah, obviously you’d like for it to end differently, obviously. But we’ve evolved as you hope a team has evolved. It’s hard when you take over a program. And obviously took it over midsummer. You’re trying to figure them out. They’re trying to figure you out. You’re also trying to figure out your guys’ strengths and what triggers to pull with guys. And just what guys you can challenge in what areas. And you’re learning their strengths, too, strengths and weaknesses, and how to put them in the best position and I think that took some time for us.
“This group really turned a corner at some point. And I think it was maybe after the PK-80. And after the Clemson game it turned a corner and flipped the switch and we were really never the same. And it was all positive. We just kept growing together. I’ve been proud of a lot of teams but this one is up there.”
On the start of the game: “Missed layups. And maybe nerves. Maybe nerves. Or I think we missed four point-blank layups that we don’t normally — we’re going to miss a few in the game, but not four in a matter of the first four minutes.
“They were making plays, too. Gonzaga was good, too. I think Gonzaga can get to another Final Four. I thought they were really good. After we played them once we said that, and I just think they’re really good. Mark does an incredible job with them. He does an incredible job with them.”
On challenge of defending Gonzaga: “It’s their balance and the number of weapons that they have. Williams is a load but we handled him okay. Tillie can make obviously open shots and you have to know where he’s at. We really struggled with Perkins in game one. Really struggled with him. And we handled him a little bit better in this game. But then you have Norvell that goes off to 26, 28.
“They’re what you want a program to be, and that is year after year after year they have good, young players, or players sitting out or whatever. So there’s never going to be a significant dip in the program. It’s what you want in an elite program. A good recruiting class and a system in place and culture in place, and Gonzaga has all that. And that’s a credit to Mark and his program.”