No. 15 Ohio State not looking past Bucknell
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann will be interested to see how the 15th-ranked Buckeyes start Saturday's home game against mid-major opponent Bucknell after a 10-day break for final exams.
"You are always anxious as a coach coming off a 10- or 11-day layoff," he said Friday. "You're worried about rust and conditioning. There will always be a significant layoff around finals because of how important that time is."
The Buckeyes (8-1) won two in a row before the downtime, beating Big Ten opponents Minnesota and Illinois after their lone loss to Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Sophomore forward Kyle Young is as curious as Holtmann to see how the players respond.
"We have to be ourselves," Young told reporters. "We have to come out and play the same game we've been playing. We can't be lackadaisical. We have to pick up where we left off. I feel like we used this time to get better.
"We've had a good start to the season. We need to stay in the moment. We want to keep it rolling."
Young said the Buckeyes spent the past week in practice working on defense and taking care of the ball. Ohio State is averaging nearly 14 turnovers per game.
"That's big for us," he said. "We have to be a defensive-minded team. We also have to be tough. Turnovers and cutting those down were a big thing we focused on during this break."
Holtmann expects Bucknell to provide a challenge. The Bison (4-3) lost their three leading scorers from last year's team that won the Patriot League before getting knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Michigan State, but they're won three of their last four games after a 1-2 start.
"They are well coached. They are organized and talented," Holtmann said. "If you look at the schedule we put together, we looked at having games like this. The common fan may not know about them. They have consistently been an NCAA Tournament team.
"They are what you would expect in a really good program. ... They've lost three games, and two of those they were without their leading scorer. They are having another good year."
Bucknell was without 6-foot-9 center Nate Sestina in their losses to Fairfield and Canisius. He leads the Bison in scoring (17.0 points per game) and rebounding (9.0 per game). Another senior, Kimbal Mackenzie, follows close behind with a 16.1-point scoring average.
"It's a great tradition and great atmosphere" at Ohio State, fourth-year Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. "It's going to be a really tough challenge. Chris Holtmann is an outstanding coach."
The Bison's visit to Ohio State is the second game of eight away from home through early January. They travel to Saint Mary's (Calif.) on Wednesday and then head to Hawaii for three games.
"The margin for error in these games is a lot smaller in other games and so we've got to be precise," Bucknell point guard Jimmy Sotos said. "Defensive rotations ... and offensively we need to execute to make sure we get a good shot each time down the floor."
Updated December 14, 2018