While positive COVID-19 tests in the Ohio State program led to the cancellation of Saturday’s game against Kentucky, the Buckeyes will still have had a meaningful basketball connection to UK this season.
To hear Coach Chris Holtmann and his family, it came on Nov. 30 when Ohio State defeated Duke 71-66 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The victory helped soothe the enduring pain Christian Laettner inflicted by making the game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament East Region finals. Next March 28 will mark the 30th anniversary of arguably college basketball’s most memorable shot.
The Holtmann family certainly remembers.
“I will always associate that program with that particular moment in college basketball history,” Holtmann said. “I think I always will. I don’t think that ever leaves you.”
However, the Ohio State coach said he was “somewhat removed” from the 1992 game when the Buckeyes played Duke on Nov. 30. He said it was memorable as the first time he’d coached against Duke and Mike Krzyzewski.
John Michael Holtmann, the younger brother of the Ohio State coach, said he still remembered “the exact spot” where he sat and also where his father sat in their Nicholasville home and watched Laettner beat Kentucky.
“I think I may have shed a few tears,” he said. “I was upset after that one.”
Father John Holtmann suggested Laettner’s shot was more than a game-winner. It punctuated a game drenched in drama and an inspiring three-year UK rebuild led by Rick Pitino.
“I remember we thought the game was practically over when Sean Woods hit his shot,” the elder Holtmann said. “Then to see that shot from Laettner, it was, like, heartbreak.”
Then on Nov. 30, Ohio State outscored Duke 14-1 in the final five minutes to win.
Father and brother attended the game in Columbus.
“There was a lot of — shall we say — redemption,” the elder Holtmann said.
The Ohio State coach recalled returning home past midnight and talking about the game with his brother.
“He goes, that was the single greatest athletic experience I’ve ever been a part of,” Chris Holtmann said. “It exorcised some demons for him for sure.”
That’s how John Michael remembered it.
“That healed some wounds from 1992 …,” the younger brother said. “I told Chris he didn’t need to get me anything for Christmas this year. That gift was already wrapped up.”
In The Associated Press Top 25 poll updated Monday, there were eight teams that had lost twice. Kentucky was the lowest-rated at No. 21.
Coincidentally or not, UK also had the worst non-conference strength of schedule going into the week according to Ken Pomeroy at No. 342.
The other two-loss teams were No. 5 Gonzaga (8-2, strength of schedule 199), No. 12 Michigan State (9-2, SOS 8), No. 14 Houston (8-2, SOS 149), No. 15 Ohio State (8-2, SOS 24), No. 17 Texas (6-2, SOS 322), No. 18 Tennessee (7-2, SOS 121) and No. 20 UConn (9-2, SOS 297).
There was one three-loss team in the AP Top 25 surely buoyed by a challenging schedule: No. 9 Villanova (7-3, SOS 13).
‘Still out there’
When asked about a noticeable number of empty seats at Kentucky and Arkansas games, Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland echoed something John Calipari has said.
“Obviously, the COVID thing is still out there,” he said. “I mean, it’s not lost on some people. I’m sure that affects some people in terms of decisions of what they’re doing with their lives.”
No call = no review
The way Alabama’s 83-82 victory over Houston ended last weekend could have revived memories of a Kentucky defeat in the 2018-19 season.
Houston had multiple chances for a game-winning basket at Alabama. After Kyler Edwards missed a three-point shot, the Cougars twice tipped rebounds toward the basket in the final seconds.
After the second attempted tip-in bounced off the rim, Alabama freshman JD Davison swatted the ball out of bounds as the final buzzer sounded.
Coaches and players jumped off the Houston bench to seemingly plead for a goaltending call. Coach Kelvin Sampson and several players followed the referees off the court.
“It was goaltending,” Sampson said in his postgame news conference. “He knocks that ball off the rim, and there’s no call. That’s just a tough way to go down.”
Though stopping short of agreement, Alabama Coach Nate Oats empathized.
“If I was in their shoes, I would be looking for a goaltending (call), too,” he said.
During a news conference Monday previewing Houston’s next game, Sampson was asked if he’d like to see a rule change. Because no call was made on Davison’s swat, the referees could not review the play. He said he would.
Of course, that situation came up when LSU beat UK 73-71 on Feb. 12, 2019. The question was whether the ball was over the rim when Kevell Bigby-Williams made the winning tip-in. If so, it’s basket interference. Because no call was made, the play could not be reviewed.
Was defeating Kentucky 66-62 a ho-hum victory for Notre Dame?
Numbers crunched by stats savant Ken Pomeroy would make you think so.
Before last weekend’s game, Pomeroy had Notre Dame at No. 51 in his ratings. After beating Kentucky — Kentucky! — the Irish remained at No. 51 in the days following the game.
“It is basically because the score was close to the prediction, so there was no need for the ratings to adjust much,” Pomeroy wrote in an email.
The predicted score was a 74-72 Kentucky victory. Pomeroy had given UK a 56-percent chance of beating Notre Dame.
It was not a ho-hum defeat. Kentucky fell from No. 10 to No. 21 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll.
In recent games against Minnesota and Colorado State, Mississippi State guard Iverson Molinar made a total of three three-point shots in 18 attempts.
After he made one of seven shots from three-point range (two of 16 overall) against Colorado State, Molinar watched the game film more than once, Coach Ben Howland said.
“They’re really ganging up on him,” Howland said. “He’s our leading scorer. That’s going to happen. But he missed some open shots.”
Howland said the “biggest glaring thing” was Molinar having made 13 of 49 three-point shots (26.5 percent) going into Tuesday’s game against Georgia State. Molinar made 43.6 percent of his three-point shots last season (44 of 101).
Plus, Molinar had made 32 of 34 free throws this season (94.1 percent).
“You know he’s a better shooter than he’s shown,” Howland said, “because you can’t shoot 94 percent and not be a good shooter.”
To Deron Feldhaus. He turned 53 on Thursday. … To Kelenna Azubuike. He turned 38 on Thursday. … To Allen Edwards. He turned 46 on Thursday. … To Adam Chiles. He turned 39 on Thursday. … To Matthew Mitchell. The former UK women’s coach turned 51 on Thursday. … To Wisconsin player Nigel Hayes. The player who scored after the shot clock expired in the 2015 Final Four turned 27 on Thursday. … To former Vanderbilt player and coach Jan Van Breda Kolff. He turned 70 on Thursday. … To Wendell Lyons. He turned 69 on Friday. … To former Arkansas coach Stan Heath. He turned 57 on Friday. … To Myron Anthony. He turned 44 on Saturday. … To Roger Harden. He turns 58 on Sunday (today). … To De’Aaron Fox. He turns 24 on Monday. … To Jeff Brassow. He turns 51 on Monday. … To Eric Manuel. He turns 54 on Tuesday. … To former Georgia coach Ron Jirsa. He turns 62 on Tuesday.