Southeast Missouri was always going to be overmatched when it played at fifth-ranked Ohio State in Columbus on Tuesday.
Now, the Redhawks (3-7) are also going to face an angry team.
The Buckeyes (9-1) suffered an 84-71 defeat at Minnesota on Sunday, when a victory for then-No. 3 Ohio State might have meant a jump to the No. 1 ranking.
Instead, Chris Holtmann must get the Buckeyes to quickly regroup before traveling to Las Vegas to play No. 6 Kentucky on Saturday.
“We’ve got to figure out how to coach better and play better moving forward, and that’s the challenge for us,” Holtmann said after the game.
At the same time the Buckeyes were losing, Southeast Missouri was in Ohio dropping a 65-50 decision to Youngstown State for its third straight loss and fifth in six games, all away from home. That road stretch will extend to eight when they play Saturday at Southern Illinois before returning home Dec. 29 vs. Missouri Baptist.
Home or road, Southeast Missouri coach Rick Ray said the key for his team is making the opponent work for points. It didn’t work against Youngstown State, which shot 51 percent from the floor and had 38 points in the paint.
“We had been really excellent on the defensive end,” Ray said. “I’ve told our guys to be clear what we’re doing defensively. The first correction is making sure we’re doing it right. The second thing is do it harder.”
Southeast Missouri has had to get by without Chris Harris, who has missed the past eight games after sustaining a knee injury in mid-November. He played the first two games, averaging a team-best 15.5 points per game.
The junior guard’s absence is felt even more on a team with four sophomores and three freshmen.
“We’re so young and inexperienced,” Ray said. “We’ve got to be able to fight through that adversity and hope that’s something we learn as we go through this nonconference season to get us ready for the conference season.”
The Redhawks made just 3 of 14 free throws (21.4 percent) on Sunday.
Ohio State had its own shooting woes, hitting 38.3 percent of its shots, including 7 of 20 3-pointers (35 percent), vs. the Golden Gophers.
The Buckeyes were without starting guard Duane Washington Jr., who is second on the team with 11.4 points per game. He has a rib injury, and his status for Tuesday is unknown.
Holtmann said he wasn’t sure if Washington would have made a difference, given the way Minnesota played.
“They were physically tougher, and we’ve got to get better in that area,” he said. “His absence obviously leaves a scoring vacancy, but I don’t think it was ever really one of those games where it was within reach enough. It got to three possessions at one point in the second.”
Junior center Kalen Wesson leads Ohio State with team-highs in scoring (13.9 points per game) and rebounding (9.0), and he’s made 14 of 33 3-point shots (42.4 percent). Ohio State is allowing opponents to hit just 35.4 percent from the field, including 29.9 percent from beyond the arc.
–Field Level Media