COLUMBUS — Ohio State will face its biggest road test of the season Thursday night.
The Buckeyes are hoping one of their leaders will be back in the lineup when they do so.
Senior captain and forward Kyle Young’s status is still unclear heading into Wednesday afternoon’s practice.
“Kyle’s feeling better,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “We’ll evaluate him after practice today and make a determination. … His status is always big. His play is really important for us.”
Young didn’t travel with the team or play in Ohio State’s 87-79 overtime win on Sunday at Nebraska due to a non-COVID related health issue.
The Buckeyes were able to replace the production of Young, at least for one night against Nebraska. Freshman playmaker Malaki Branham scored a career-high 35 points. Cedric Russell, Jimmy Sotos and Eugene Brown played important minutes for Ohio State. They found a way to get a road conference win.
But his return to the lineup would certainly be welcomed if he can play. Young has become a better scorer, averaging double digits for the first time in his career while maintaining the physical presence that became his calling card for most of his time in the program.
“It’s so critical,” Holtmann said about Young’s scoring ability last week. “What we know with Kyle is he provides other things that impact winning. So it’s not always about his point production. He provides an awareness defensively, activity on the glass, an ability to rebound outside of his area, an ability to get 50-50 balls. He doesn’t take bad shots and he doesn’t turn it over. So he allows your other guys to play in an effective way. … We really need [scoring from Young], particularly with Justice and Seth out, for us to reach a level, you need that consistency from Kyle.
“We can still win without that, but we need that for us to reach another level of play.”
That played out at Nebraska. The Buckeyes were able to get a win without Young on Sunday.
In a bigger test on a larger stage, though, Young has a chance to be back — and Ohio State would be better if he’s on the floor.