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Zed Key's knee has 'responded well' to treatment, status for Illinois up in the air

Andy Backstrom01/23/23
Article written by:On3 imageAndy Backstrom


Zed Key by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Ohio State center Zed Key suffered a late-game knee injury against Iowa. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS — Ohio State center Zed Key suffered a left knee injury in the final minute of a 93-77, streak-snapping win over Iowa Saturday afternoon. Key had to be helped off the court after experiencing pain on the dismount of a two-handed dunk he delivered with the game already in hand.

Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann was asked about Key’s status during his radio show on 97.1 The Fan Monday.

“No real update other than the knee has responded well to some of the treatment that our medical staff has done with Zed,” Holtmann said. “We do not expect it to be a long-term injury of any type. It’s not a long-term injury. What his availability will be for Tuesday, it’s still too early to say.”

In his press conference availability Monday, Holtmann described Key’s knee injury as “a day-to-day situation that we’re monitoring.” Holtmann said he and his staff should know more by game time. The Buckeyes play at Illinois Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

When Holtmann was asked on his radio show about potentially subbing out Key with a double-digit lead in the waning minutes of the second half, Holtmann pointed out a few things. He noted that Iowa had come back from seven points down with 2:18 to go against Michigan to force overtime and beat the Wolverines earlier this month.

Holtmann explained that Iowa has the top-scoring offense in the Big Ten. Notably, only 14 teams in the country hold the ball for less time per possession than the Hawkeyes. Head coach Fran McCaffrey’s team can score quick.

“The last kind of three minutes went pretty fast,” Holtmann said on 97.1 The Fan. “I think if we had had a dead ball, maybe I would have subbed everybody out. [The lead] went from being kind of 10 to 8-10 to 12-14 pretty quickly. And there wasn’t ever a stoppage where I felt like, ‘OK let’s get everybody out.'”

Holtmann continued: “You never coach anticipating a guy having an injury. In past games, if we’ve had a 20-point lead going into the last four minutes of the game, we’ll typically sub guys out. In this game, it really didn’t enter my mind. We were just kind of playing. And, fortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be any type of a long-term issue.”

Key is still wearing a compression sleeve for the left shoulder sprain he sustained against Purdue on Jan. 5. Key exited that game early in the first half and didn’t return. He was sidelined for the following contest at Maryland, where Buckeyes freshman center Felix Okpara made his first career start. Ohio State’s 80-73 loss to the Terrapins is the team’s lone defeat this month that wasn’t decided by one possession or decided in overtime.

Key returned for the Minnesota game on Jan. 12, but he didn’t make his way back to the starting rotation until last Wednesday’s game at Nebraska. That said, Key has played at least 28 minutes in each of his four games since he came back to the court.

Key is third on the team in scoring (12.1 points per game) and atop the Buckeyes’ rebounding leaderboard (8.1 boards per game). The junior has six double-doubles this season.

“We missed his physicality and his ability to be physical over the course of the game,” Holtmann said Monday of Key’s absence against Purdue and Maryland.

“We gotta figure out how to supplement that. We just missed his physicality. Zed can have moments where he can be frustrated with himself over missing easy buckets or whatever, but, generally, he provides a physical body, and that’s really what we’ve missed, and we were gonna have to supplement that if he’s out.”